Indian train inferno kills at least 26 people

0 comments

NEW DELHI: Fire raced through an Indian train carriage packed with sleeping passengers on Saturday, killing at least 26 people, and forcing terrified passengers to smash windows in a frantic bid to escape.

Some passengers were able to break the toilet windows of the train, but  other victims were overcome by the thick, swirling smoke and bodies were found  heaped at the windows and doors, reports said.
 
“We were suffocating because we couldn’t get the windows open, the windows  are really strong,” one young man who survived but who lost his cousin to the  flames told India’s NDTV news.
 
Rescue officials said many bodies were charred beyond recognition and would  have to undergo DNA tests to determine their identity.
 
“Rescue teams have so far recovered 26 bodies from the three-tier coach of  the train while five of the eight injured have been admitted to hospital for  emergency treatment,” South Western Railway spokesman S. Biswas told AFP.
 
Forensic teams were on their way to the train site to collect body samples  for analysis, The Press Trust of India reported.
 
Prime Minister Manmohan Sigh expressed “shock and grief at the loss of life  in the train accident in Andhra Pradesh” in a statement on his official Twitter  account,    
 
The carriage was gutted by the inferno and was a mass of twisted metal and  melted plastic seats. Adjacent coaches also bore scorch marks, testifying to  the ferocity of the fire.
 
There were conflicting reports about the number aboard with police saying  65 while national Railways Minister Mallikarjun Kharge said there were 67  people in the carriage, sleeping six to a compartment.
 
Kharge told AFP the blaze was believed to have been caused by an  electricity fault.
 
India’s underfunded, accident-prone rail network, one of the world’s  largest, is still the main form of long-distance travel in the huge country  despite fierce competition from private airlines.
 
The coach caught fire in the pre-dawn hours as it travelled from the  high-tech city of Bangalore to Nanded, 180 miles (300 kilometers) from the  Hyderabad city. 
 
Two of those who died were children, railway officials said.
 
The exit doors of Indian trains are customarily locked at night, reports  said, while the carriage windows are covered with bars, making escape all but  impossible.
 
The toilet windows are the only ones that have no bars and the spaces and  berths are narrow.
 
The tragedy comes a little over a year after another train accident in the  same state of Andhra Pradesh killed 32 people and shone the spotlight again on  the Indian rail network’s dismal safety record.
 
That train was also carrying sleeping passengers and was also attributed to  an electrical fault.
 
It was not immediately known whether more bodies would be found, police  said.
 
Initial relief efforts were hampered by winter fog, local reports said,  while the first people to reach the blazing train carriage were from nearby  villages.
 
Railways Minister Kharge said the railway board chairman would lead an  inquiry into the cause of the accident and a more complete report would be  issued later.
 
The engine driver stopped the train when he spotted flames about an hour  away from Nanded, a police officer was quoted on The Hindu newspaper website as  saying.
 
Rescue workers brought out the bodies as the smoke abated.
 
The prime minister said he had told railway and state government  authorities  “to extend all possible help to the victims in rescue and relief  operations”.    
 
India’s worst rail accident was in 1981 when a train plunged into a river  in the eastern state of Bihar, killing an estimated 800 people. AFP

An Indian policeman looks for evidence inside the burnt out coach at the site of a train fire near Kothacheruvu railway station in Andhra Pradesh State, southern India, 28 December 2013. At least 26 people including two children, were killed when a passenger train coach caught fire in southern India. The train had departed from Bangalore late 27 December and the fire broke out in an coach around 3 am, according to a spokesman for the railway authority. EPA/JAGADEESH NV

 

7 A passenger train engulfed in flames near Kothacheruvu railway station, in Andhra Pradesh state , southern India 28 December 2013 after catching fire. At least 23 people, including two children, died in the blaze. It engulfed a carriage of the Nanded-Bangalore Express while travelling through the state. Cause of the fire not yet known. EPA/STR

Dead bodies lie on the ground at the site of a train fire near Kothacheruvu railway station in Andhra Pradesh State, southern India, 28 December 2013. At least 26 people including two children, were killed when a passenger train coach caught fire in southern India. The train had departed from Bangalore late 27 December and the fire broke out in an coach around 3 am, according to a spokesman for the railway authority. EPA


Leave Your Comment


Leave Your Comment:

New Straits Times reserves the right not to publish offensive or abusive comments and those of hate speech, harassment, commercial promos and invasion of privacy. Your IP will be logged and may be used to prevent further submission.The views expressed here are that of the members of the public and unless specifically stated are not those of NST.