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India train fire kills at least 26 passengers

As the inferno and thick black smoke raced through the two cars at 3:45am, panicked passengers broke the windows and many saved themselves by jumping from the train.

A fire on an overnight train killed at least 23 people in southern India as it ripped through a carriage packed with sleeping passengers. AFP
A fire on an overnight train killed at least 23 people in southern India as it ripped through a carriage packed with sleeping passengers. AFP

NEW DELHI // A fire engulfed two coaches of an express train in southern India early on Saturday, killing at least 23 passengers, many of whom became trapped and suffocated after the doors failed to open, officials said.

As the inferno and thick black smoke raced through the two cars at 3:45am, panicked passengers broke the windows and many saved themselves by jumping from the train.

The train was on its way from the city of Bangalore to Nanded in the western state of Maharashtra and the driver stopped the train when he saw flames coming out of an air-conditioned coach.

“The fire has now been brought under control but there are casualties ... the authorities have gone inside the coach,” Arunendra Kumar, the chairman of India’s Railway Board, said.

A spokesman for the railways, CS Gupta, said 67 passengers were in the two cars when the fire broke out about two kilometres from the small town of Puttaparthi in Andhra Pradesh state.

Mr Gupta said the two coaches that caught ablaze were delinked from the rest of the train to prevent the fire from spreading.

Firefighters put out the blaze and retrieved at least 23 bodies, including two children. More than a dozen people were brought to hospitals with injuries sustained when they jumped from the coaches, said a railway official at the site of the fire.

Firefighters had to force the doors open and make their way through the smoke-filled coaches to reach the dead. Many bodies were found near the jammed doors.

India’s federal Railways Minister Mallikarjun Kharge said that preliminary reports from the site indicated that the fire was caused by an electrical short circuit. An investigation was under way.

Agence France-Presse with additional reporting by Reuters