CHENNAI (TIP): Two blasts in quick succession in a passenger train on May 1 killed a 24-year old woman techie and injured 14 others at the busy Chennai Central Station in a suspected terror attack. The two low-intensity bombs went off in S4 and S5 sleeper coaches of the Bangalore-Guwahati Superfast Express about 10 minutes after the train pulled into Platform No. 9 around 7.05 am, triggering chaotic scenes with panic strickenpassengers scurrying for safety.
The woman killed in the mishap has been identified as Swathi, an employee with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) at Bangalore. She was travelling to her home town Guntur in Andhra Pradesh along with a friend, the police said. 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. Fourteen injured persons, including two critically wounded, were undergoing treatment at the state-run Rajiv Gandhi General Hospital where doctors described their condition as “out of danger”. The incident is among the rare terror attacks on trains in Tamil Nadu. Explosions had occurred in three trains in 1993 to mark Babri Masjid demolition day and in the RSS office here a few years later.
However, major terror attacks in Tamil Nadu include a blast at Chennai airport in 1984 killing 33 persons and the 1998 Coimbatore blast that killed 60. The Tamil Nadu government is not treating today’s explosions as a terror attack as of now, according to sources in the Union Home Ministry.
The police cordoned off the platform where the explosion occurred, rushed forensic experts, bomb disposal squads and sniffer dogs to look for clues and the Tamil Nadu Government transferred the investigation to its specialised wing CB-CID. The train was scheduled to reach Chennai at 5.40 am, but was running late. The ill-fated train continued its onward journey after railway authorities replaced the three damaged coaches, while other trains operated as scheduled after a brief disruption, railway officials said.
The Chennai Central station handles some 200 trains and thousands of passengers every day. The police are probing all angles, including whether the bomb was planted after the train entered the city railway station or elsewhere, a police official refusing to be identified said. A man at the station said: “The blast was not very loud. It was only after we saw people running away from the train that we realised something is wrong.”
He said 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.
The Tamil Nadu Police have alerted railway authorities at various stations between Bangalore and Chennai to look for CCTV footages for suspects and also the point at which the explosive material was placed on the train, sources said. State DGP K Ramanujam, after visiting the mishap site, said, “It is a minor blast. We suspect Chennai could not have been target because the train was running late.
Some other location could have been the target. It is premature to say what kind of device was used in the blast. The damage to the train is not heavy.” Railway Minister M Mallikarjun Kharge declared Rs 1 lakh ex-gratia to the woman’s family and Rs 25,000 to the seriously injured.