9 killed in TN train fire mishap

MADURAI (TN), Aug 26:
At least nine pilgrims bound for Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu met with a tragic end on Saturday when a fire broke out inside a stationary train compartment at the railway station here in the small hours of Saturday, the Southern Railway said.
It also said a gas cylinder “illegally” taken inside the coach led to the blaze.
They had embarked on the pilgrimage from Lucknow last week in a private party coach, and most of them hailed from the Uttar Pradesh capital and its nearby areas.
Six of the nine deceased have been identified. They were three men and women each.
According to one of the survivors, only after a locked door was broken open could many even run towards safety, possibly avoiding a bigger tragedy.
While the Southern Railway initially put the toll at 10, it later revised it to nine. About 20 people were undergoing medical treatment here.
Tamil Nadu Governor R N Ravi condoled the deaths and wished for the safety and speedy recovery of injured.
Chief Ministers of TN and Uttar Pradesh, M K Stalin and Yogi Adityanath, besides their West Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee, expressed anguish over the incident and condoled the deaths. Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and the Railways announced ex-gratia to the families of the victims.
The fire broke out at 5.15 am on Saturday and Fire service personnel who arrived at the spot half an hour later put down the blaze by 7.15 am, a Southern Railway release said.
“This is a private party coach that was attached at Nagercoil Junction yesterday (Aug 25) by train no. 16730 (Punalur-Madurai Exp). Party coach was detached and kept at Madurai Stabling line. The passengers in the private party coach have…Smuggled gas cylinder and this has caused the fire,” the release said.
The party coach had started the journey from Lucknow on August 17, scheduled to return to Chennai on Sunday and proceed to the UP capital from there on, it added.
“While the coach was stabled/parked, some members of the party in the private party coach were using the illegally smuggled cooking gas cylinder unauthorisedly for preparing tea/snacks, which caused the fire in the stabled/parked coach. Most of the passengers could get out of the coach on noticing fire. Some passengers had already got down at platform also before detachment of coach,” it added.
The private party had illegally carried gas cylinder, stove and other inflammable articles “which led to the freak fire accident,” it said.
Among the items found at the spot was an LPG cylinder, bag of potatoes, utensils and wooden logs, giving ample indications of attempts to cook food.
Alka Prajapati, a survivor undergoing treatment at a government hospital here, said those sleeping were woken up by cries of “fire, fire.”
“We were sleeping when we heard the cries and tried to escape. The door was locked so we could not escape immediately. Someone broke the lock and we came out. There was thick smoke and I couldn’t breathe properly and just took God’s name,” she told PTI at the hospital.
Railway employees arrived there 15-20 minutes after all efforts to put out the flames were taken. “But it (the coach) was blazing,” she said, still recovering from the shock.
Some survivors who spoke to the media said they were proceeding to Rameswaram.
In moving scenes at the spot, women were seen wailing, possibly over the loss of a dear one, while a child recalled the tense moments before fleeing to safety.
A local eyewitness, auto-driver Mannan Prakash, said the people in the vicinity rushed to the accident spot soon after hearing a “sound”, but could not get near due to the fire.
“Some got stuck inside. They could not get down (quickly) since it was a sleeper coach,” he said.
Chief Minister Stalin, in a statement, said the victims were proceeding towards Rameswaram for pilgrimage and expressed anguish over the fatal incident.
In a statement, he said he immediately directed Madurai district collector MS Sangeetha to rush to the spot. Arrangements were being made for the transportation of the bodies to their native places, he said.
The CM announced a cash relief of Rs 3 lakh each to the families of the victims and deputed his cabinet colleague P Moorthy to coordinate the relief efforts here. UP CM Adithyanath announced Rs 2 lakh ex-gratia to the victims’ kin. “The loss of lives in the unfortunate train accident in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, is extremely sad and heart-wrenching. My condolences are with the bereaved families,” he said on X. (PTI)