Chennai: A young woman working in an IT company was killed and 14 people were injured Thursday when two bombs exploded on a train as it entered the Chennai Central station, police said.
The low intensity explosions in quick succession occurred in two adjacent coaches of the Bangalore-Guwahati express train around 7.15 a.m., triggering mayhem on May Day at the busy station.
Many fled in panic and the wounded cried out in pain, as the young woman lay dead. Two of the wounded suffered serious injuries.
Southern Railway general manager Rakesh Mishra identified the dead woman as 24-year-old Swathi from Guntur in Andhra Pradesh.
Swathi was an employee of an IT company in Bangalore, and was going to Andhra Pradesh.
Speaking to reporters at their residence in Guntur, Swathi’s parents were inconsolable and said their daughter was to get married in a couple of months.
They later arrived here to collect Swathi’s body.
A man at the station told IANS: “The blast was not very loud. It was only after we saw people running away from the train that we realised something was wrong.”
He said the rail coaches were not badly damaged but the berth where the dead woman was seated bore the brunt of the explosion.
Sheetal Pradhan, a passenger in one of the two coaches, told reporters that the first blast was like a Diwali bomb and was immediately followed by the second.
She and her friend immediately came out on to the platform where the scene was chaotic. They shivered at the thought of the bomb being much more powerful.
Railway porters told reporters they were heading towards the incoming train when they heard the blasts. Frightened passengers immediately rushed out of the coaches.
The porters were the first to provide help to the injured. They also helped passengers get out.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh condemned the “barbaric act” and said they “highlight the desperation and cowardice of those responsible”.
“No efforts should be spared to bring the perpetrators to justice,” he said.
The blasts came barely two days after a Sri Lankan national, Mohammed Zakir Hussain, was arrested on charges of plotting to damage vital installations in Tamil Nadu.
“The blasts occurred in coaches S4 and S5 of the Bangalore-Guwahati train,” Inspector General of Police (Railways) Seema Agarwal told IANS.
She said the injured were admitted to a government hospital and the two coaches were detached from the train for investigation.
According to hospital officials, the condition of those injured was stable.
The Chennai Central station handles some 200 trains and several thousands of people every day.
The train was scheduled to reach Chennai at 5.40 a.m. but was running late by an hour and a half.
IGP Agarwal said it was too early to say what explosives were used.
After detaching the two coaches, the train was later flagged off.
Police also took into custody a young man who was hiding in a coach.
Registering a case, railway police later transferred it to the Tamil Nadu Police crime branch.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa expressed grief at the death of the woman.
“I have ordered police to investigate the crime along with the railway police and bring the culprits (to book),” she said.
She also announced a solatium of Rs.100,000 to the family of the dead woman, Rs.50,000 to those who suffered serious injuries and Rs.25,000 to the other injured people.
Security at all major railway stations in Tamil Nadu was beefed up after the blasts.
Southern Railway general manager Mishra said an ex-gratia of Rs.100,000 has been announced for the family of the dead, Rs.25,000 for those who suffered serious injuries and Rs.5,000 for the other injured.