India

India train fire kills 26 in Andhra Pradesh state

  • 28 December 2013
  • From the section India

At least 26 people, including two children, have died after a fire broke out on a train in India, reports say.

The blaze engulfed a carriage of the Nanded-Bangalore Express while it was travelling through southern Andhra Pradesh state, rail officials said.

Police said many of the dead had been trapped inside and suffocated by thick black smoke filling the train.

An electrical short circuit may be to blame, officials say, and an inquiry is under way.

The fire broke out in an air-conditioned carriage around 03:30 local time (22:00 GMT) near the small town of Puttaparthi in Andhra Pradesh.

More than 60 passengers are thought to have been inside the carriage, and the doors were locked as is customary at night, reports said.

Some people managed to break windows and jump from the carriage, but firefighters discovered many bodies heaped up near the doors.

Identifying the dead will take time because many bodies were charred beyond recognition, rescue workers said.

'Chaos'

"We were all asleep. All of a sudden, we all woke up to a burning sensation," AFP news agency quoted a survivor, Sharad, as saying.

"There was chaos. We realised the bogie [carriage] was burning," Sharad said, adding he broke the glass window in a toilet cabin to allow three people to escape.

"But I could not save my wife and maternal uncle," he said in tears.

Rescuers found the bodies of victims heaped around the doors, which reports say were locked when the fire broke out
Pictures from inside the carriage showed the charred wreckage
This man (left) lost his wife and father-in-law in the inferno
Accidents are common on India's immense state-owned rail network

The burning carriage was delinked from the rest of the train to prevent the fire from spreading, railways spokesman CS Gupta said according to Associated Press news agency.

On his official Twitter account, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed his "shock and grief" at the disaster and said he had directed state and railway authorities to "extend all possible help to the victims".

Railways Minister Mallikarjun Kharge said initial indications suggested an electrical short circuit could be to blame for the blaze, but an investigation is under way.

The exact number of injured and missing people remains uncertain.

Accidents are common on India's immense state-owned rail network, which operates 9,000 passenger trains and carries some 18 million passengers every day, connecting every corner of the country.

Last year, 47 people were killed in a fire on a passenger train travelling in Andhra Pradesh. That blaze was also attributed to an electrical short circuit.

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