Thirteen killed in Andhra Pradesh train fire (Second Lead)

August 1st, 2008 - 4:18 pm ICT by IANS  

Hyderabad/New Delhi, Aug 1 (IANS) At least 13 people were killed and three injured when a passenger train caught fire in Warangal district of Andhra Pradesh early Friday. The cause of the fire has not yet been ascertained but Railway Minister Lalu Prasad ruled out the possibility of a bomb blast. Five coaches of Gowtami Express, going from Secunderabad to Kakinada, were gutted in the fire which broke out around 2 a.m. in a forest near Mahboobabad, about 250 km from state capital Hyderabad.

“Thirteen people were killed and three injured in the fire,” a railway official said.

Officials said the fire broke out in the S-10 coach of the train and engulfed the other bogies, spreading panic among passengers, who were fast asleep. Those killed include three handicapped people and a pregnant woman. The toll might go up as rescue workers found more charred remains in the wreckage.

Some passengers pulled the chain to stop the train and detached the affected bogies with the help of the train crew, said Andhra Pradesh Animal Husbandry Minister G. Surya Rao, who 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 short circuit could have led to the mishap.

“The exact reason of the fire has not been detected yet and the inquiry is going on. But there was no bomb blast,” Lalu Prasad told reporters.

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

They could not take up the rescue and relief operations immediately due to darkness in the area. The rescue and relief work began early morning. Sajjanar said the fire broke out in S-10 and spread to 9, 11, 12 and 13. Eleven bodies were found in the S-10 coach.

After detaching the affected bogies, the train left for Kakinada with the remaining passengers. A special relief train was sent from Secunderabad with medical staff and it has reached the scene of the accident. Relief teams and medical vans have also reached from Kazipet junction and Vijaywada.

The accident has 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, who expressed shock over the tragedy, left for the accident site.

The railway minister has announced compensation of Rs.500,000 each for the families of those killed and Rs.100,000 for the 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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