Hyderabad/Bangalore, Dec 28: At least 26 passengers were killed and 15 injured as two coaches of the Bangalore-Nanded Express caught fire in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh early Saturday, officials said.
The disaster took place between 3.20 and 3.30 a.m. near Kothacheruvu railway station in Anantapur district bordering Karnataka, a police official said.
The fire broke out in the B1 three-tier AC coach of the train proceeding from Bangalore to Nanded in Maharashtra and spread to the adjoining coach, about two kilometers from the railway station.
Rescue workers retrieved the bodies that were burnt beyond recognition. The bodies were shifted to Bangalore, where DNA tests would be conducted to establish the identity of victims.
The dead included two children, a railway official in Bangalore said.
Forensic experts from Hyderabad rushed to the scene to collect evidence and the DNA samples.
The death toll may rise as rescue operations were continuing, police said in Hyderabad.
The injured were shifted to government-run hospitals in Dharmavaram, Penugonda and Puttaparthi towns. As many as 64 passengers were travelling in the B1 coach, a majority believed to be from Karnataka.
Many passengers survived by pulling the alarm chain that halted the train.
According to witnesses, some passengers raised an alarm after seeing smoke. As most passengers were asleep, many got trapped in the thick smoke and could not crawl out.
“Preliminary reports indicate that the cause of the fire was near the electric short circuit near the AC unit,” said a police statement.
Rescue and relief operations were deplayed until dawn. People from nearby villages were the first to reach the disaster site.
Railway Minister Mallikarjuna Kharge has announced Rs.5 lakh ex-gratia to the kind of the victims and said the expenditure on treating the wounded would be met by the railways.