Nellore: Most of them were fast asleep, while some were awake waiting to reach their destination in another three hours, when a ghastly fire cut short their life's journey in a few seconds."It was all over in 15 seconds. The smoke spread fast, giving no time to people to escape," said a passenger, who was lucky to escape.

At least 32 passengers were charred to death and 25 others injured when a fire broke in a coach of the Chennai-bound Tamil Nadu Express near here in the wee hours today due to a short circuit.

Twenty-six passengers were rescued from the coach S 11 which was completely gutted, Nellore Collector Sridhar said. As the train was passing through Nellore, which is about 150 kms from Chennai, some people noticed the fire and informed railway authorities.

Two of the injured were in a serious condition, he said. "The death toll in the affected coach will be around 30-35," he said. The coach had around 70 seats. "There was a short circuit near the toilet and the train was moving at a speed of 110 kms per hour.

It was going to Chennai from Delhi. All the passengers were asleep when the fire broke out at 4:30 AM. People were not able to come out immediately," he said.

"The fire spread fast and the passengers could not come out through one of the doors because of the fire. So the other edge of the coach was to be used. Some people could come out and others succumbed to death," he said.

The bodies have been charred so it is difficult to identify them, Sridhar said.

TN train mishap:ex-gratia announced

Railway Minister Mukul Roy today ordered an inquiry into the Tamil Nadu Express fire mishap and announced an exgratia payment of Rs five lakh each for the next of the kin of those killed in the incident that left 32 people dead.

He also announced a payment of Rs one lakh each for those who were grievously injured and Rs 25,000 for those who suffered simple injuries. The inquiry by D K Singh, Commissioner of Railway Safety of South-Central Circle, will look into the cause of the mishap near Nellore in Andhra Pradesh.

Railway Ministry spokesperson Anil Saxena said relief has been despatched through the accident relief medical train from Bitragunda station. Fire brigade from Nellore reached the site and extinguished the fire, he said, adding Railway Board Chairman Vinay Mittal along with senior officials have rushed to the accident site.

A special train has been arranged for carrying relatives of affected passengers from Chennai to Nellore. Saxena said Railways has instructed General Managers of all zones to exercise extra vigil and launch a special safety drive regarding precautions to be taken to avoid recurrence of such accidents.

Majority of victims from Chennai

Most of the victims of the train fire at Nellore in Andhra Pradesh early Monday were from Chennai, according to railway officials. Out of 72 passengers travelling in the ill-fated S11 coach of New Delhi-Chennai Tamil Nadu Express, 28 were from Chennai, while 17 passengers were from Delhi.

The train caught fire early Monday morning minutes after it passed through Nellore railway station, which is not a scheduled stop for the train.

On Sunday night, seven passengers boarded the coach at Warangal, the first stop of the train in Andhra Pradesh. The other stop was at Vijayawada early Monday.As per the reservation chart, 11 passengers boarded the coach at Bhopal, six at Jhansi, three at Agra and one at Nagpur.

The train No.12622 had left New Delhi 10.30 p.m. Saturday and was scheduled to reach Chennai at 7.15 a.m. on Monday.The long distance train covers 2,181 km and passes through Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh before entering Tamil Nadu.


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