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Hirakhand Express derailment: High level probe begins amid suspicion of foul play

A high level probe began today into the derailment of Jagdalpur-Bhubaneswar Hirakhanda Express that claimed 39 lives in Andhra Pradesh on late Saturday.
India TV News Desk Bhubaneswar January 23, 2017 21:59 IST
India TV News Desk

A high level probe began today into the derailment of Jagdalpur-Bhubaneswar Hirakhanda Express that claimed 39 lives in Andhra Pradesh on late Saturday.  

The process of investigation by the Commissioner of Railway Safety commenced to ascertain the cause of the train mishap that took place on Saturday night near Kuneru in Vizianagaram district of Andhra Prade, an East Coast Railways (ECoR) official said. 

Ram Kripal, Commissioner of Railway Safety, South Central Circle, Secuderabad, under the Ministry of Civil Aviation is holding the statutory inquiry, he said. 

After visiting the accident site where nine bogies and the engine of the train had jumped off the track, the commission is at present conducting the inquiry at the Officers' Rest House (open line) at Rayagada. 

Thereafter, the inquiry will start from 10.30 AM tomorrow at the divisional railway manager's office, Dondaparthy, Visakhapatanam, the official said. 

"Any member of the public having knowledge relating to this accident and matters connected therewith and desiring to give evidence may do say at above places on the dates of inquiry or write to the Commissioner Of Railway Safety, South Central Circle...," a railway notification said. 

"The investigation will look into all aspects relating to the train derailment to ascertain the exact cause of the tragic incident," said an ECoR officer. 

Railway sources yesterday said there was suspicion of tampering of the track as the area is known to be a Naxal-prone zone. 

However, Odisha Police ruled out involvement of Maoists in the derailment.

"There is no indication of Maoist hand behind the derailment of the Jagdalpur-Bhubaneswar Express," Odisha DGP K B Singh told reporters after accident. 

Though the accident took place in Vizianagaram district of Andhra Pradesh, the spot is only 35 km from Rayagada town of Odisha and most of the injured persons were rushed there. 

A senior officer engaged in anti-Maoist operation rejected the possibility of Naxal involvement in the accident. 

"We totally reject any possibility of Maoist involvement in the derailment. Kuneru is not a Naxal-hit area," the officer of the intelligence wing told PTI. 

"There is no movement of red rebels near the accident site for the last five years. We are even planning to shift the force from the area as there is no report of Naxal movement since a long time," the officer said. 

Sources said that the Home Ministry may ask the NIA to include the derailment of Hirakhand Express in Andhra Pradesh in its ongoing probe into possible role of Pakistan spy agency ISI in Indore-Patna Express mishap last year.

"The Home Ministry may ask the NIA to see if the derailment in Andhra Pradesh today was a subversive act. The NIA can expand the scope of their ongoing probe," official sources said.

However, probe by NIA would only begin if prima facie evidence suggest a sabotage. 

Meanwhile, normal train services resumed on Rayagada-Vizianagaram railway section after remaining disrupted for around 36 hours following the derailment as the track was cleared, he said. 

All the nine mangled bogies and the train engine which had derailed have been removed from the track with the help of heavy machinery and cranes, the officer said, adding normal train operations resumed on the route after repair of the damaged track at the site. 

Meanwhile, ECoR today released the list of all the 39 people who were killed in the train derailment after establishing their identities. Almost all the bodies have been handed over to their relatives after conduct of postmortem, the officer added.