Thirty eight people, including women and children, were killed and 13 injured when three coaches of Amritsar-bound Frontier Mail caught fire early morning near Ladhowal railway station, 10 km from Ludhiana, a northern railways spokesman said.
Many bodies were charred beyond recognition, Railways Divisional Commercial Manager (Ambala) MS Meena said.
The injured have been shifted to Christian Medical College hospital, civil hospital and Dayanand Medical College in Ludhiana.
Divisional railway manager (Ambala) Keshav Chandra said 2nd, 3rd and 4th sleeper coaches from the rear were affected by the fire cause of which were not immediately known. The affected sleeper coaches S3, S4 and S5 have been detached from the train and arrangements are being made for onward journey of the passengers to Amritsar.
The train caught fire about 10 minutes after it left Ludhiana at 3:35 am. Four bodies were brought out of the burnt coaches. The worst affected coach was S4.
Relief and medical teams from Ambala have left for the scene and railways has set up control rooms at Ambala, Saharanpur and Jagadhari to provide information to the people about the incident.
Divisional railway manager (Ambala) Keshav Chandra said that railways relief teams with medical personnel have reached the spot. Railways Minister Nitish Kumar has expressed his "profound grief" over the tragedy involving Frontier Mail and has directed railway authorities to intensify relief and rescue measures.
Railway Minister Nitish Kumar along with Chairman, Railway Board, IMS Rana will reach this afternoon to take stock of the situation. "They are expected to reach here by 3:00 pm," Divisional Railway Manager, Northern Railway, Ferozepur Division, SC Punia said.
Railways have paid immediately ex-gratia of Rs 300 to each of the affected passengers. Army personnel had also joined the relief and rescue operations.
The fire had broken out near Phaguwal village residents of which were the first to rush to the rescue of train passengers. Villagers are providing food and water to the train passengers.
A railways spokesman said that efforts were on to send the remaining passengers to their destinations, but the immediate priority was to provide rescue and relief to the passengers and clear the damaged bogies.
Four of the injured have been identified as Sangeeta Rani, Satyapal, Vikram Singh (all residents of Meerut) and Ashok Bhatia. None of the bodies of 35 passengers brought out could be recognised as they were charred beyond recognition.
Train services on the main line Ludhiana-Jalandhar section have been suspended.
A special train would leave for Ludhiana at 12:00 pm from New Delhi Railway Station with relatives of passengers of the ill-fated Frontier Mail train, Northern Railway sources said. Following are the Railway control rooms with telephone number: Ambala (2634653, 2631275), Saharanpur (2648453, 2610757, 2610175), Jagadhari (238052, 239170) and Ludhiana.