Probe begins into train fire, victims yet to be identified

August 3rd, 2008 - 4:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Hyderabad, Aug 3 (IANS) A probe into the fire on the Gautami Express, which claimed 31 lives, began Sunday even as no progress could be made in identifying the dead. Chief Commissioner of Railway Safety, R.P. Agarwal, Sunday began the statutory inquiry into the fire which broke out on the passenger train in the early hours of Friday.

Five coaches of Secunderabad-Kakinada train were gutted in the incident that took place near K-Samudram railway station in Warangal district.

The railway official began the two-day inquiry at the railway rest house in Warangal railway station. On the first day, railway personnel, who were present at the accident site, recorded their statements before him.

Members of the public, who know anything related to the accident and wish to give evidence, have been asked by the officials to come forward in person or in writing.

The authorities, in their preliminary investigations, ruled out sabotage, but said the cause of the fire would be known only after thorough investigations.

An electrical short circuit was believed to have triggered the fire but the South Central Railway (SCR) authorities have now found oil marks in the S-10 coach, hinting that the fire may have been caused by inflammable material on board the train.

A railway official virtually ruled out short circuit or the hot axle phenomenon as the cause for fire. He said a cooking stove was also found in the coach.

Meanwhile, even two days after the tragedy the victims could not be identified. Bodies of only two women, who died of suffocation, were found intact. They were identified and handed over to their families while remaining 29 were charred beyond recognition.

The autopsy on the skeletal remains was completed at MGM Hospital in Warangal. The forensic experts could only determine the sex and age of 16 victims. They established the sex of nine as female and seven as male. They hope to establish sex and age of the remaining dead in a day or two.

The skull and bones were packed in different plastic bags with the seat numbers from where they were found, pasted on them.

Heart-rending scenes were witnessed at the hospital as relatives of the dead going around the bags, not knowing how to identify them.

The relatives have been asked to approach railway officials with photographs of the deceased which would be superimposed on pictures of the skulls, to identify them.

In case this method fails to help in the identifying process, the railway officials plan to conduct DNA tests on the human remains.

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