Train inferno kills 32
By T Karnakar Reddy and M Srinivasa Rao - NELLORE
31st July 2012 09:21 AM
At least 32 passengers were killed and 25 injured when a major fire broke out in S11 coach of New Delhi-Chennai Tamil Nadu Express near here. The fire engulfed the entire coach at 4.14 am just after the Chennai-bound train number 12622 left Nellore railway station.
When the fire broke out, most of the passengers were asleep. There were 72 passengers in the S11 coach, of whom 25 injured were moved to Nellore District Hospital and Bollineni Superspeciality Hospital here. The death toll may go up.
Railway Minister Mukul Roy indicated the fire could have been caused by an act of sabotage. Vijayawada Railway Divisional Manager Anurag said, “We do not rule out the possibility of some explosives catching fire in the coach.”
Roy said he had information about a gate man at a level crossing and a few passengers admitted to hospitals saying they had first heard a loud sound before the fire broke out.
On sabotage or short-circuit as reason for the mishap, Roy said, “I will not say anything at this stage.” Rail officials said that short-circuit in train causes automatic stoppage of power supply and does not lead to a fire.
However, Additional Director General of Police (Railways) V S K Kaumudi said all possible reasons would be investigated.
The train at a speed of 110 kmph came to a halt when the gate man of a level crossing waved a red lamp at the train’s driver after being alerted by the Nellore station staff, who in turn, were alerted by the gate man of another level crossing, who saw flames emanating from the windows.
Immediately, fire tenders and police rushed to the spot and managed to battle flames from spreading to other bogies.
The railway staff, using gas cutters, opened the coach, to find charred bodies lying on berths and in sitting posture.Survivors said they woke up when they felt breathlessness as the coach was full of black smoke.
R K Ravichandran from Tamil Nadu said it all happened in 4-5 minutes. “I saw flames engulfing the coach and passengers running towards the door. It took some time to open it. Some others went to S-10 and jumped out. I too followed them,” he said.
Soon, there were cries for help as flames spread across the bogey, consuming the foam leather of berths.
Some of the passengers were burnt on their berths and seats, while others collapsed in the stampede. Later, the railway authorities separated the burnt coach and allowed the train to proceed to Chennai.
Meanwhile, a train from Chennai, carrying the relatives of the passengers, arrived here.
Roy ordered an inquiry and announced an ex gratia payment of `5 lakh each for the next of the kin of those killed, `1 lakh for those who were grievously injured and `20,000 for those who suffered simple injuries.
Nellore District Collector B Sridhar, Superintendent of Police B V Ramana Kumar and railway officials supervised the rescue operations.
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