A FIRE ENGULFED a coach of an express train in southern India today, killing at least 26 passengers. It is believed that many passenger became trapped and suffocated after the doors failed to open.
As the inferno and thick black smoke raced through the car at about 3.45am local time, panicked passengers broke the windows and many saved themselves by jumping from the train.
There were 67 passengers in the carriage when the fire broke out about 2 kilometres from the small town of Puttaparthi in Andhra Pradesh state, said a spokesman for the railways, C.S. Gupta.
Footage of the fire can be seen here:
The train was brought to a halt and the burning coach was de-linked from the rest of the cars to prevent the fire from spreading, Gupta said.
The fire spread to a second coach, but the blaze was put out before it caused much damage.
Fire fighters put out the blaze and retrieved at least 26 bodies, including two children, said a railway official at the site of the fire. More than a dozen people were brought to hospitals with injuries sustained when they jumped from the coaches, the official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.
Firefighters had to force the doors open and make their way through the smoke-filled coach to reach the dead, the official said.
Many bodies were found near the jammed doors, he said.
Medical teams carried out autopsies to identify the bodies, many of which were charred beyond recognition.
The train was travelling from Bangalore to Nanded in the western state of Maharashtra.
Railways Minister Mallikarjun Kharge said preliminary reports from the site indicated that the fire was caused by an electrical short circuit. An investigation is underway.
Accidents are common on India’s rail road network, one of the world’s largest, with some 18 million passengers daily. Most collisions and fires are blamed on poor maintenance and human error.