In the seventh major train accident this year, seven passengers, including an Australian national, were burnt to death on Tuesday, when two air conditioned (AC) coaches of the Howrah-Dehradun Express caught fire.
The incident took place between Nimiyaghat and Parasnath railway stations in Jharkhand's Giridih district.
It was around 2.30am when coach number B1 of the Dehradun-bound train caught fire. Later, the fire spread to coach B2. Both coaches were badly burnt, but all the casualties were from B1.
While the exact cause of the blaze is yet to be ascertained, some hinted at a gas cylinder blast in one of the coaches as the reason behind the fire. However, railway minister Dinesh Trivedi is not ruling out the possibility of sabotage.
"Involvement of miscreants cannot be ruled out," Trivedi told reporters in New Delhi.
Australian researcher Katie Scanlan, 21, one of the four female research students from Australia, died of suffocation.
The group was travelling to Bodh Gaya for research-related work.
Among the dead were two girls - Archita Thakur, 4, and Mahjuvi Ali Akhtar, 8.
Some eyewitnesses told railway authorities they had seen two passengers moving suspiciously as the train left Gomoh station around 2am.
"The two entered the bogey and placed bags in an empty berth. A few minutes later I saw smoke coming out of the bag and soon flames engulfed the bogey," said Mohammed Zahid Khurashi who was travelling in the coach B1.
Distraught passengers later said that more would have perished if a passenger had not pulled the emergency alarm to halt the train.