The death toll in eastern Indian train crash has risen to 131, and may rise further as search and rescue efforts continue, the Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) reported.
Thirteen passenger cars of the Lokmanya Tilak Gyaneshwari Express were derailed in a rural area about 90 miles (150 kilometres) to the south of Kolkata early on Saturday. Five coaches fell on a parallel track and were slammed by a cargo train.
"We now have 131 confirmed deaths. But more bodies are now being extricated as the rescue workers have entered the worst affected second class sleeper coach," IANS quoted Director General of Police Bhupinder Singh as saying.
The number of the injured stood at 146, including 38 were in a serious condition.
Singh confirmed that Maoist guerrillas are thought to be behind the tragedy.
"Definitely, Maoists are involved in this... And I say this based on circumstantial evidence," he said.
The train went off the track as some 1.5 feet of rail track were removed, while it was unclear whether explosives were used or not. A police source earlier said the tracks were sabotaged 15 minutes before the train passed over them."
Police found two leaflets near the accident site, in which the Maoist-backed People's Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCPA) claimed responsibility for the accident.
The Maoists, also known as Naxalites after the village in West Bengal where impoverished villagers staged an uprising against landowners in 1967, have waged a campaign of violence against the government, police and landowners for four decades.
If the Maoists' involvement into the crash is confirmed, it would be the group's biggest attack on civilians. In the latest attack, 76 security men in Chhattisgarh's Dantewada district were killed on April 6.
Sources earlier told IANS the Indian armed forces were almost ready to move in into the Maoist-dominated areas and were waiting for a political decision about it.
"The force is finalizing its plans to meet any contingency. They may have to step in," an official was quoted as saying by the agency.
NEW DELHI, May 30 (RIA Novosti)