A passenger train has derailed in eastern India, killing four people, after a suspected explosion on the tracks during a protest called by Maoist rebels, officials have said.
About 12 carriages of the high-speed Rajdhani Express, which was travelling from the capital, New Delhi, to the northeastern state of Assam, toppled over at around 2:00am local time (2030 GMT) in Bihar state’s Saran district on Wednesday.
Eight other passengers were taken to hospital for treatment for their injuries and stranded passengers were being ferried in special trains as the long stretch of broken tracks were being repaired.
“Prima facie, it appears to be a case of sabotage,” Railway Board chairman Arunendra Kumar told the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency. “There was a blast on the track, which could have caused the derailment.”
Meanwhile, the chief spokesman of railways, Anil Kumar Saxena said 25 trains have been cancelled and 23 have been diverted.
“The special train has taken all the passengers to their destination. The work to restore the track is in progress, we hope to restore train services by evening. The accident has affected the Golden Ganj station, where it happened. 72 trains have been affected from the northeastern railway and East Central Railway. ” said Saxena in New Delhi, according to Reuters news agency.
One of the casualties, Ram Pratap Singh, described how passengers in sleeper carriages had been woken by a “loud noise”.
“The carriage tipped over and over again and a passenger on a top (berth) fell on me,” Singh told the local ABP news network. “Then we got up somehow and found a small opening to get out.”
It is the latest deadly incident on India’s dilapidated rail network. A government report in 2012 said that almost 15,000 people were killed every year on the network, describing the deaths as an annual “massacre” due mainly to poor safety standards.
Saxena said that an expert team had rushed to the site to gather evidence.
|Several passengers killed in India train fire
“One of the possibilities could be sabotage by the Maoists,” he told the AFP news agency.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh however, said that it was “too early” to blame the rebels, according to PTI, while a senior police officer said that a “technical fault” could have been to blame.
Moreover, the police said they had recovered three crude explosive devices that had been planted in a marketplace in a nearby town.
If confirmed as a Maoist attack, it would be the first by the Maoist fighters since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party came to power last month after a landslide election victory.
Separatist groups affect large parts of India’s northeast, northwest and central regions, including the states of Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand and Maharashtra.
Many of the rebels say they are fighting authorities for land, jobs and other rights for poor tribal groups.