32 people charred to death, Rail Minister hints at sabotage

An Indian fire official douses fire coming out from a coach of a passenger train at Nellor, nearly 500 kilometres south of Hyderabad, India

NELLORE, AP: Thirty-two people were today charred to death and 25 others injured when a fire broke out in a coach of New Delhi-Chennai Tamil Nadu Express near here with Railway Minister Mukul Roy indicating that there could have been a blast.

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.

The Nellore station manager noticed the fire in one of the bogies of the train at 4:15 AM and 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.

In Kolkata, the Railway Minister said, “Some of the injured passengers admitted to hospitals and a gateman at one of the level crossings near Nellore station heard a loud sound when the fire occurred in the coach”.

Roy said that the Divisional Railway Manager had also said that there was a report of a blast even as the minister maintained that nothing can be “excluded” as to what caused the fire.

Asked if he suspected any act of sabotage, Roy said, “I will not say anything at this stage.” He said that there was a talk about short circuit as also some inflammable substance being carried by a passenger.

“Nothing can be excluded and nothing can be said without an investigation. It will be investigated if inflammable substances were in the compartment or it was caused by a short circuit,” the minister said.

Ishan Shah, who was traveling in the ill-fated coach and had woken up due to the disturbances, said that he had not heard any blast.

Condoling the loss of lives in the fire accident, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asked the Railway Ministry to render all assistance to the affected. . 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 was badly burnt and looked like as if it had come out of 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.-PTI