EIGHT PERSONS were killed and 60 wounded on Monday by a powerful blast in the general compartment of the 618-Down Haldibari-New Jalpaiguri passenger train at Belakoba railway station in Jalpaiguri district in West Bengal.
Many of the injured are said to be critical. Unconfirmed reports said there were at least 12 deaths. The Central Public Relations Officer, North Frontier Railways, T. Radha said the blast took place at 6.19 p.m., 18 kilometers from New Jalpaiguri station. Eyewitnesses said three doors of the fifth coach from the engine (No GS-8321) were blown away by the impact of the blast. Preliminary investigation suggests the bomb was kept in a vegetable sack inside the toilet.
Senior railway officials said the toll could have been much higher had the bomb gone off a few minutes earlier, as many passengers had got off when the train stopped at Belakoba station.
Two sleeper class coaches were to be attached to the Darjeeling Mail, which was to leave for Kolkata from NJP station at 8 p.m. The explosion, however, did not occur in any of these coaches.
The explosion first brought to the spot local villagers, who took the injured to the hospital. Railway police later joined the rescue efforts. The Jalpaiguri Sadar Hospital and North Bengal Medical College were crowded with relatives of the victims. The authorities could not put up the lists of the dead and te injured till late, adding to the confusion.
Jalpaiguri Sadar Hospital superintendent Dr Suresh Bhowmick admitted the injured were still pouring in with splinter injuries and fractures.
Calling it the handiwork of militants, Left Front chairman Biman Bose announced that rallies and protest meetings would be held all over the state on November 21 and 22. A similar blast had killed 10 people, including three security personnel, on June 22, 1999 at NJP station. Militants had used a suitcase bomb then.