At least 26 passengers, including 12 women and two children, were burnt to death yesterday when an air-conditioned coach of the Bangalore-Nanded Express caught fire near Puttaparthi inAndhra Pradesh.
“Of the 65 passengers in the AC-3-tier B-1 coach, 39 escaped the blaze with injuries and 15 of them were admitted to hospitals at Anantapur and Puttaparthi,” said South Western Railway spokesman S Biswas.
The train left Bangalore at 10.45 pm on Friday. Railway officials suspect a short circuit in the AC coach could have triggered the inferno. The blaze spread rapidly around 3 am when the train was travelling towards Dharmavaram from Kothacheruvu station after leaving Prashanti Nilayam station at Puttaparthi pilgrimtown.
The train passes through north Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Marathwada region of eastern Maharashtra. The blazing coach was detached from the vestibule train soon after passengers noticed flames leaping out of it and the train suddenly stopped. Some of the survivors jumped out of the burning coach after breaking window panes in the toilets.
A few surviving passengers complained to the district authorities that there was no fire extinguisher in the AC coach. Heart-rending scenes were witnessed at the state-run Victoria hospital in Bangalore where charred bodies were brought in.
“The bodies will be kept in the hospital morgue for forensic tests for identification. Blood samples of their relatives will be taken to match with that of the victims’ through a DNA test,” South Western Railway deputy chief engineer Hari Babu said.