35 burnt alive in Tamil Nadu Express blaze (Fifth Lead)
Hyderabad/Chennai, July 30 (IANS) In one of India's worst train tragedies, at least 35 passengers were killed, most of them in their sleep, 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 coach 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 coach, which was 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.
Officials said 30 bodies had been recovered from the charred coach and 12 of them were identified. An autopsy on the bodies is being conducted at Nellore railway station.
Congress MP Chinta Mohan who visited the site of the tragedy said that over 40 people had been killed. As many as 15 passengers are believed to have jumped down from the burning coach but majority of them could not escape.
Passengers, who had no reservation and were sitting or standing near the doors were lucky while others sleeping on berths, especially the upper and middle berths, had no time even to rush towards the doors that got jammed.
Many were believed to have been charred to death before they could realise what was happening. Rescue workers found bodies lying on berths. A body was seen in a sitting posture, indicating that the man could not even attempt a escape.
Charred bodies and pieces of human flesh were seen lying among the mangled remains of the coach. Nellore District Collector B. Sridhar said the bodies were burnt beyond recognition and they were trying to identify the victims with the help of their relatives. He said the burning bogie was detached to prevent the fire from spreading to other coaches.
He quoted some witnesses as saying that the fire was caused by an electrical short circuit near the toilet.
The injured were admitted to various government and private hospitals in Nellore town.
"There may be 30 bodies lying in the coach. It is horrific," added Congress legislator Anam Vivekananda Reddy after visiting the accident site.
A witness told reporters that many were trapped inside when the flames engulfed the bogie.
"I was lucky to come out but many passengers could not escape as two doors were jammed and the smoke spread fast," said Sudhir.
Barring the gutted coach and three other bogies, the train reached its destination Chennai, 155 km from Nellore, a few hours later.
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.
Train 12622 had left New Delhi 10.30 p.m. Saturday and was scheduled to reach Chennai at 7.15 a.m. Monday.
The long distance train covers 2,181 km and passes through Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh before entering Tamil Nadu.
According to railway officials, the passengers of the ill-fated bogie had boarded at Delhi, Agra, Jhansi, Warangal and Vijayawada.
The railways have announced Rs.5 lakh ex-gratia to the families of each of those killed and Rs.1 lakh to the critically injured.
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