32 Tamil Nadu Express passengers charred to death

Nellore (AP): Thirty-two train passengers were charred to death and 25 others injured when a fire broke out in a coach of the New Delhi-Chennai Tamil Nadu Express near here in the wee hours today due to a short circuit.

Additional DG Railways V S K Kaumudi told PTI that 32 bodies have been recovered so far from the charred S-11 bogie of the train.

South Central Railway officials in Hyderabad said 25 people have been injured in the mishap and have been admitted to different hospitals.

According to Nellore district officials, the fire was noticed by a gateman at around 4.15 A.M who alerted officials. Two fire tenders were rushed to the spot immediately to put out the fire and they managed to restrict the blaze to the S-11 bogie, they said.

Nellore District Collector B Sridhar said, "There was a short circuit near the toilet and the train was moving at a speed of 110 kms per hour. It was going to Chennai from Delhi. All the passengers were asleep when the fire broke out at 4:30 AM. People were not able to come out immediately".

"The fire spread fast and the passengers could not come out through one of the doors because of the fire. So the other edge of the coach was to be used. Some people could come out while others succumbed to death," he said.

The bodies have been charred so it is difficult to identify them, Sridhar said.

Additional Joint Collector Laxmikant said the toll could rise up to 35 as some of the bodies are still to be recovered from the charred S-11 compartment.

Nellore district police officials said 14 passengers in the bogie were safe. Some of the passengers travelling in the train told reporters that smoke engulfed the bogie soon after the fire broke out making it difficult for them to come out.

Railway Minister Mukul Roy has announced an exgratia payment of Rs five lakh each to the next of the kin of those killed in the mishap.

The Railway Minister also announced a payment of Rs one lakh each for those who were grievously injured and Rs 25,000 for those who suffered simple injuries. The Railway Ministry has also ordered an inquiry by D K Singh, Commissioner of Railway Safety of South-Central Circle to look into the cause of the accident.

Expressing shock and anguish over the incident, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy conveyed his condolences to members of the bereaved families. A release from the CM`s Office said he would visit Nellore to meet those injured in the mishap.

The Chief Minister has asked the Chief Secretary to monitor the relief operations on a minute-to-minute basis and also coordinate with railway officials of Secunderabad and Delhi, the release said.

The S-11 coach looked like a structure of mangled steel put in a furnace. Heart-rending scenes were witnessed at the railway station as relatives of some of the deceased passengers, who reached Nellore, wept inconsolably.

The coach was brought to the Nellore railway station and normal traffic was restored by around 8.30 A.M, the South Central Railway officials said.