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Four killed as train derails in eastern India

Four people were killed when a train derailed in eastern India on Wednesday, the latest in a series of deadly disasters to blight the country's dilapidated rail network.

PATNA: Four people were killed when a train derailed in eastern India on Wednesday, the latest in a series of deadly disasters to blight the country's dilapidated rail network.

While the rail board initially pointed the finger of blame at Maoist insurgents, police and government officials said there was no reason to suspect sabotage.

Some 12 carriages of the Rajdhani Express sleeper train, which was travelling from the capital New Delhi to the northeastern state of Assam, toppled over at around 2:00am (2030 GMT) in Bihar state's Saran district.

Railway Board chairman Arunendra Kumar was initially quoted as telling the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency that there "was a blast on the track" which could have caused the derailment, with suspicion falling on the Maoists as they had called a strike in the region.

But a spokesman later said sabotage was only "one of the possibilities" that was being investigated while a senior state and government officials were also cool on the idea that it was an attack.

"Prima facie it does not appear to be the handiwork of Maoists," Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi told reporters.

"No trace of blast on the track or any other evidence suggesting sabotage has been found so far," he added, according to PTI.

"The incident appears to be a result of error on the part of railways."

Speculation that it could have been an attack by the Maoists was heightened when police said they had recovered three crude explosive devices that had been planted in a marketplace in a nearby town.

Bihar is part of a group of states in eastern and central India that have borne the brunt of Maoist attacks which have claimed thousands of lives in recent decades.

But police spokesman Superintendent Sudhir Kumar told AFP: "I don't think there is any connection of the bombs with the train accident," while Home Minister Rajnath Singh said it was "too early" to blame the Maoists.

Eight other passengers were taken to hospital for treatment for their injuries after the train derailed.

One of the injured, Ram Pratap Singh, described how passengers in sleeper carriages had been woken by a "loud noise".

"The carriage tipped over and over again and a passenger on a top (berth) fell on me," Singh told the ABP network.

"Then we got up somehow and found a small opening to get out," he told the channel.

Stranded passengers were being ferried in special trains while railway workers were trying to fix the long stretch of broken tracks.

Wednesday's disaster is the latest deadly incident on India's run-down rail network, which is still the main form of long-distance travel for the middle-class and the poor.

Last month, 26 people were killed when a passenger express travelling in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh ploughed into a stationary freight train.

In 2012 a government report said almost 15,000 people were killed every year on the network, describing the deaths as an annual "massacre" due mainly to poor safety standards.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government, which came to power last month, has pledged to revive the railway network by infusing funds and introducing new trains.

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