Jhargram, West Bengal:
Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee has said a bomb blast as part of a "calculated attack" caused the Mumbai-bound Gyaneshwari Express to first derail and then get hit by a goods train, killing at least 71 people and injuring more than 200.
Speaking to NDTV hours after the incident, the minister said administration and police authorities had informed her that there had indeed been a blast. There was confusion through the morning on whether a blast caused the tracks to break or had fishplates had been removed. Police said about a one-foot section of track was missing.
The minister said the timing of the attack was minutely planned with the goods train approaching at just that moment.
The priority right now, she said, was to save those passengers still alive but trapped in mangled coaches. Oxygen and saline was being given to them even as rescue workers tried to cut through to extricate them, she said, adding that "A railway accident is very tough."
Mamata, who reached the spot early in the morning, said earlier that the Railways was on red alert and there had been patrolling on the tracks just an hour before the incident happened. The alert, she said, had been called as the Maoists had declared May 28, 29, 30, 31 as Black Days. "But we couldn't have stopped running trains, it's the lifeline of the nation...Patroling was done an hour ago. The Maoists are very particular about the timing...they are adjusting it according to patrol time...The timing was crucial " (Watch: Railways was on alert for Maoist 'Black Day': Mamata)
Mamata refused to go into the law and order issue saying it was a state subject.
The minister has announced Rs 5 lakh as compensation for those dead and Rs one lakh for those injured. She also said one family member of those who had died would get employment.
The minister did repeatedly add though that this in no way could compensate for lives lost.