Train blast, collision kill at least 65 in India |

Train blast, collision kill at least 65 in India

SARDIHA, India (AP) – A bomb planted by suspected Maoist rebels derailed an overnight passenger train which was then hit by a cargo train in eastern India on Friday, killing at least 65 people and injuring an additional 200, officials said.

Nearly 10 hours after the blast, at least a dozen passengers were still trapped in the wreckage, with the blue passenger train and the red cargo train knotted together in mangled metal along a rural stretch of track in West Bengal state near the small town of Sardiha, about 90 miles (150 kilometers) west of Calcutta.

Railway police and paramilitary soldiers used blowtorches and cables to try to reach the remaining survivors, said A.P. Mishra, general manager of the railway system in that area.

Sher Ali, 25, was traveling with his wife, two children and his brother’s family when they were jerked awake by a loud thud. A moment later, he said, their car was tossed from the track.

“My sister-in-law was crushed when the coach overturned. We saw her dying, but we couldn’t do anything to help her,” said Ali, who had cuts to his head and arms. The rest of the family survived, though a ten-year-old nephew had been badly injured and had been hospitalized.

The passenger train was traveling from Calcutta to the Mumbai suburb of Kurla when 13 cars derailed. A cargo train then slammed into three of the cars from the other direction, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee said.

Mishra said the train had been derailed by a bomb and that the rail tracks had also been sabotaged. Banerjee said authorities suspected that the bomb was planted by Maoist rebels.

West Bengal state Home Secretary Samar Ghosh said 65 people were confirmed dead after the derailment and more than 200 people were injured.

Medics brought at least 30 bodies to a nearby railway hospital in the town of Kharagpur, said E. Mitra, a doctor at the hospital.

The derailment took place in an isolated, rural stronghold of India’s Maoist rebels, known as Naxalites, who have stepped up attacks in recent months and had called for a four-day general strike starting Friday.

Earlier this month, the rebels ambushed a bus in central India, killing 31 police officers and civilians.

The rebels, who have tapped into the rural poor’s growing anger at being left out of the country’s economic gains, are now present in 20 of the country’s 28 states and have an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 fighters, according to the Home Ministry.