MADRAS, India, March 15, (Reuter): A speeding express train plunged into a dry river bed in Southern India today after the track had been blown up, killing up to 25 people, and a senior railway official said it was a clear case of sabotage.

A railway spokesman told Reuters the engine and eight coaches of the rock fort express went off the rails 60 km (37 miles) from Tiruchirapalli in Tamil Nadu state about five a.m. Officials said at least 16 people were killed and 60 injured. The Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency, quoting unofficial sources, said as many as 25 people were killed and 150 injured in the incident at Marudayar Bridge.

A police press statement said authorities had uncovered vital clues about the incident and expected to make arrests in the next few days.

PTI quoted K.V. Balakrishnan, southern Railway General Manager and a passenger on the train, as saying the derailment was a clear case of sabotage. He did not say who was responsible but added that two rails had been removed at the site of the tragedy.

The railway spokesman said at least 150 meters (490 feet) of track were destroyed in an explosion and added that a live explosive device and some wires were found nearby.

There has been sporadic political violence recently between rival political parties in Tamil Nadu, India’s southernmost State.

The state also has experienced serious protests against the use of Hindi, the North Indian tongue used as India’s national language which is opposed by many Tamils who speak an ancient Dravidian language.

This city, the State capital, also serves as headquarters to quarrelling Sri Lankan Tamil Guerrilla groups fighting for an independent homeland on the island. Several recent violent incidents in the State have been blamed by police on conflicts between the groups.

The police press statement said “sensitive sections” of Tamil Nadu railways were being patrolled but gave no details.

PTI said the Express’s engine driver and guard were among those killed. The diesel engine was a total wreck while the seven passenger coaches and one postal van were badly damaged.

Nine other coaches remained on the tracks, PTI said.

Article extracted from this publication >>  March 20, 1987