Hyderabad/Chennai, July 30 (IANS) At least 35 passengers were killed and 25 injured when a coach of the Delhi-Chennai Tamil Nadu Express caught fire near Nellore in Andhra Pradesh early Monday, officials said.
The fire broke out between 4.30 a.m. and 4.45 a.m. in the S-11 compartment minutes after the Chennai-bound train left Nellore railway station in south coastal Andhra Pradesh, about 450 km from Hyderabad.
The death toll may go up as a total of 72 passengers were travelling in the second class reserved compartment, which was completely gutted in the fire. Some eyewitnesses have put the death toll at 50.
"More than 35 passengers are dead and 25 are injured. The injured have been admitted in hospitals," B. Rami Reddy, district revenue officer and additional district magistrate at Nellore, told IANS over phone.
While 15 passengers are believed to have jumped down from the burning compartment, there was no official word about others.
Rescue workers have recovered 12 bodies while efforts were on to retrieve others from the compartment.
Nellore District Collector B. Sridhar said the bodies were charred beyond recognition and they were trying to identify with the help of their relatives. He said the burning bogie was detached to prevent the fire from spreading to other compartments.
He quoted some witnesses as saying that the fire was caused by short circuit near the toilet.
As the train was not moving at full speed, some passengers either entered the adjoining compartment or jumped down. However, those sleeping on the upper berths could not escape as the smoke spread fast, and the doors also got jammed.
The injured were admitted to various government and private hospitals in Nellore town.
"There may be 30 bodies lying in the compartment. It is horrific," said Congress legislator Anam Vivekananda Reddy after visiting the accident site.
Barring the gutted coach and three other compartments, the train left for Chennai, 155 km from Nellore.
A special train from Chennai carrying the relatives of those travelling in the ill-fated coach was also sent to Nellore.
A senior Southern Railway official told IANS in Chennai: "The train will bring back the affected passengers from Nellore."
The list of passengers travelling in the S-11 coach of Tamil Nadu Express has been pasted at the Chennai Central station, added the official.
A witness told reporters that many were trapped inside when the flames engulfed the compartment.
"I was lucky to come out but many passengers could not escape as two doors were jammed and the smoke spread fast," said Sudhir.
Fire fighting personnel extinguished the fire and rescue workers were using gas cutters and other equipment to retrieve the bodies.
Ambulances were pressed into service to shift the injured to hospital.
Although sympathy would not bring back the dead but a word of sympathy does help in reducing your pain.
However, the silence of our Railway Minister is truly deafening. He does not have time to go out of Bengal and look after his ministry.
Ever since the introduction of the various "Duranto Expresses", the railways do not have time to lookaafter the othe trains. I observed this during my recent travels and that wea the comment of the other co-travellers and the people who serve the passengers...