68 dead in Gyaneshwari Express blast by Maoists in West Bengal:(Lead)

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West Midnapore (West Bengal), May 28 (ANI): At least 68 persons dead and over 200 injured when Mumbai bound Howrah-Kurla Gyaneshwati Express train collided with a goods train following blast near Jhargram in West Bengal's West Midanpore District in the wee hours of Friday.

According to South-Eastern Railway, the incident occurred at around 1:30 a.m. when the train was running between Khemasoli and Sardiya stations, about 135 kilometres from Jhargram.

Security agencies suspect the involvement of Maoist-backed People's Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA) behind the incident.

At least 13 of the 24 coaches of the Gyaneshwari Express derailed due to the impact of the blast.

According to Jhargram Additional Superintendent of Police Mukesh Kumar, five of the 13 derailed coaches fell on an adjacent track and were hit by a goods train coming from the opposite direction.

The bodies of the passengers were removed from the mangled remains of the coaches of the ill-fated train.

According to West Bengal Home Secretary Samar Ghosh 65 bodies have been recovered so far.

He expressed fear that the toll might increase.

Ghosh said over 200 injured have been shifted to different hospitals in Khargapur, West Midnapore and Kolkata. The condition of some of them is said to be critical.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopters were pressed into service at the accident spot to airlift the injured to the hospitals.

Meanwhile, the People's Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA) has claimed responsibility for the mishap.

West Bengal Inspector General of Police for Law and Order S K Kayastha confirmed that the People's Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA) has left two posters near the rail tracks clearly owning responsibility for the incident.

Reportedly, the posters read, "We earlier demanded withdrawal of the joint security forces from Jangalmahal and end of CPM atrocities, but those demands were not met."

Railways said as per the preliminary investigation, fishplates were also found removed at the derailment site.

Earlier, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee said the derailment followed a blast apparently triggered by the Maoists who are observing a 'black week'.

Banerjee, who reached the accident spot, said a patrol engine had passed through the area half an hour earlier, but the timing of the blast proved disastrous with a portion of the line being blown away. he announced a compensation of Rs five lakh for the next of kin of each of the dead and Rs two akh for the injured.

Helplines have been set up at Kharagpur -- (0322) 255751 and 255735, Howrah - (033) 26382217, besides a toll free number 10722.

Helplines have also been set up at Tatanagar (0657) 2290324, 2290074, 2290382, at Rourkela (0661) 2511155, Chakradharpur (06587) 238072 and Jharsuguda (06445) 270977. (ANI)

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