July 11, 2006

Blasts hit trains in Mumbai, at least 100 dead

MUMBAI (Reuters) - More than 100 people were killed and
hundreds injured in seven explosions on packed commuter trains
and stations during rush hour on Tuesday in Mumbai, India's
financial hub, officials said.

"There are 104 dead," a police official at the city's
central control room who gave his name as Bhavale, told Reuters
by phone. Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, the top elected
official in the state, said 300 people were injured.

Commuters fled suburban rail stations in panic after the
explosions and mobile phone lines were jammed. Television
pictures showed twisted rail carriages and people in
bloodstained clothes carrying dead and wounded on stretchers.

"The blasts happened when the trains were most crowded,"
D.K Shankaran, chief secretary of the state of Maharashtra, of
which Mumbai is the capital, told Reuters.

"At least 40 people have died. Casualties probably will go
up. Ambulances and hospitals are on stand-by."

Officials did not confirm they were bomb explosions and
there was no immediate claim of responsibility. But suspicion
turned to Muslim militants fighting New Delhi's rule in
disputed Kashmir, who have been blamed for several bomb attacks
in the country in the past.

The blasts occured throughout Mumbai's western suburbs,
which are linked to the downtown office and business areas
mainly by the train network.

"We have doused the flames at all the blast sites and now
we are taking the injured to hospitals," A. Jhandwal, Mumbai's
fire services chief told Reuters.

Dazed survivors with wounds from injuries to heads, legs
and hands waited at railway stations, with little sign of any
emergency medical aid.

One critically injured person lying near the railway tracks
was carried away by people using a long sheet of cloth.

"We heard a loud blast in one of the train compartments.
When we rushed there and looked, we saw people with severed
limbs and grievous injuries," one witness told the CNN-IBN news
channel, standing in a blood-spattered coach.

"There were no police or railway people to help." Officials
said five trains had been hit and two stations.

"All suburban train services have been suspended and search
operations are going on," the chairman of India's Railway
Board, J.P. Batra, told reporters.


Indian Prime Minister immediately called the home
(interior) minister and other top officials to an emergency
meeting to discuss the violence.

"It is a sad day," Home Secretary V.K.Duggal told reporters
ahead of the meeting. "Security has been definitely put on high

The Mumbai blasts came just hours after suspected Islamist
militants killed seven people, six of them tourists, in a
series of grenade attacks in Indian Kashmir's main city,
Srinagar, police said, the most concerted targeting of
civilians in months.

Kashmir has been split between India and Pakistan since
shortly after the two countries gained independence from
Britain in 1947, but both claim it in full.

Mumbai, a metropolis of about 17 million which was formerly
called Bombay, has been hit by a series of bomb blasts in the
past decade.

More than 250 people died in a string of bomb explosions in
the city in 1993 for which authorities blamed the city's
underworld criminal gangs.

Police in the Indian capital New Delhi said they were on
the lookout for more violence.

"We have mobilized our entire forces who are conducting
checks in all areas such as buses, bus stops, train stations
and religious institutions," Anil Shukla, deputy commissioner
of police for South Delhi, told Reuters.