As many as 26 people, including two children, are feared dead, and 15 others injured after a fire broke out in a bogie of the Nanded-Bangalore Express in Anantapuram district of Andhra Pradesh today.
The mishap took place near the Kothacheruvu railway station in Anantapur district bordering Karnataka at around 3.30am. Passengers told TV channels they were sleeping when somebody noticed smoke in the B1 AC coach and pulled the emergency chain to stop the train.
Passengers then climbed out of the train when it was still dark and the coach was on fire. According to rescue workers and TV channels, 15 injured passengers were being treated in hospitals in Dharmavaram, Puttaparthi and Anantapur.
CS Gupta, a spokesperson for South Western Railways, confirmed 15 deaths and said casualties could rise. Gupta said most passengers seemed to have choked to death in the smoke that engulfed the coach.
Read: Short circuit could have triggered train fire: Kharge
According to NDTV reports, the train had left Bangalore at 10:45 pm on Friday and was headed for Nanded. It had about 64 passengers, mostly from Karnataka, on board. The fire broke out when the train was near the Prasanthi Nilayam ashram.
Sananda Aruna, additional divisional railway manager, said the fire was doused but identifying the dead would take time because the passenger lists were burnt.
"It is a frightening scene inside the coach. Many are charred, beyond recognition, to death," said Raghuveera Reddy, Andhra Pradesh state revenue minister.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has directed Railways and state government authorities to extend all possible help to the victims in rescue and relief operations.
A compensation of Rs. 5 lakh for the dead and Rs. 50,000 for the injured has been announced by railways minister M Mallikarjun Kharge.
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