32 killed as train catches fire in Andhra Pradesh (Fourth Lead)

August 1st, 2008 - 9:16 pm ICT by IANS  

Hyderabad/New Delhi, Aug 1 (IANS) At least 32 people were killed and eight injured when a passenger train caught fire in Warangal district of Andhra Pradesh early Friday. Five coaches of Gowtami Express, going from Secunderabad to Kakinada, were gutted in the fire which broke out around 2 a.m. when it was passing near Mahboobabad, about 250 km from state capital Hyderabad.

Officials said 32 people were killed.

The bodies were burnt beyond recognition. Forensic experts rushed from Hyderabad to gather the charred remains.

Officials said the fire broke out in the S-10 coach of the train and spread to other bogies, creating panic among passengers who were fast asleep. Those killed included three handicapped people and a pregnant woman.

The fire broke out in S-10 coach and spread to 9, 11, 12 and 13. Eleven bodies were found in the S-10 coach, which was completely gutted.

Some passengers pulled the chain to stop the train and detached the affected bogies with the help of the train crew, Andhra Pradesh Animal Husbandry Minister G. Surya Rao said. He was among the passengers on the train. He escaped unhurt.

“There was panic after some passengers spotted the fire. Nobody knew what to do,” said the minister, who saw two charred bodies.

The railway authorities said the mishap occurred when the train crossed K. Samudram station on the Warangal-Khammam section of South Central Railway. The cause of the fire is not known but officials said an electrical short circuit could have led to the mishap.

Railways Minister Lalu Prasad said: “The exact reason of the fire has not been detected yet and an inquiry is on. But there was no bomb blast.”

Warangal District Superintendent of Police V.C. Sajjanar said rescue workers had a tough time reaching the accident site as it was inaccessible by road. He and other officials had to walk two kilometres to reach the spot.

Rescue and relief operations could not be taken up immediately due to darkness in the area. The rescue work began early morning.

The train with 25 coaches had left Secunderabad railway station at 9.15 p.m. Thursday.

After detaching the affected coaches, the train left for Kakinada with the remaining passengers.

Eyewitnesses said they woke up after some passengers alerted them and ran towards the adjoining coach. They said a few handicapped people could not escape and were burnt to death.

Majority of the dead were from the coastal East Godavari district. The injured were shifted to M.G.M. Hospital in Warangal town.

Moving scenes were witnessed at the accident site and at M.G.M. Hospital as anxious relatives looked for their near and dear ones among the dead and injured. Hundreds of people thronged the Kakinada railway station, waiting for information about the passengers.

A special relief train was sent from Secunderabad with medical staff.

The accident brought train services to a halt on the Warangal-Khammam section and many long distance trains were either diverted or cancelled.

Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy visited the accident site and expressed shock over the tragedy. He said it was not caused by terrorists.

“It was an accident,” Reddy said, adding that compensation of Rs.100,000 each would be given to the families of those killed. This is in addition to the compensation announced by the railways.

The railways minister has announced compensation of Rs.500,000 for the families of each of those killed and Rs.100,000 for each injured. He said one member of each family that has lost someone in the fire would be given a job with the railways.

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