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India orders probe of deadly Andhra Pradesh train blaze

  • 7-30-2012

India's railways minister has ordered an inquiry into a fire on a passenger train that killed at least 32 people in the state of Andhra Pradesh.

A coach of the Tamil Nadu Express from Delhi to Chennai caught fire as it was passing through Nellore station early on Monday.

The cause of the blaze is still unclear, but authorities suspect an electrical short circuit.

Railways Minister Mukul Roy said sabotage could not be ruled out.

He told a news conference that the operator of a level crossing near Nellore station had "heard a loud sound when the fire occurred in the coach".

"Nothing can be excluded and nothing can be said without an investigation," he was quoted as saying by Indian media. "It will be investigated if inflammable substances were in the compartment or it was caused by a short circuit."

The minister also said he had ordered the payment of 500,000 rupees ($9,000; £5,700) in compensation to the relatives of each of those killed in the blaze.

Accidents are common on India's immense state-owned rail network.

In May, 24 people were killed when a passenger train crashed into a goods train, also in Andhra Pradesh.

Revised down

Most of the passengers were asleep when Monday's fire broke out at 04:20 local time (22:50 GMT), said B Sridhar, head of Nellore's district administration.

Some of them managed to jump off the moving train before it came to a halt, but 25 passengers in the coach were injured and taken to local hospitals.

Earlier, officials had put the death toll at 47.

The town of Nellore is about 500km (310 miles) south of Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh's district capital.

"I woke up after hearing loud screams. All I could see is black smoke," Y Sampath, a software engineer who managed to escape the blaze, told The Hindu newspaper.

He was travelling with his sister, who is missing, the newspaper said.

The affected coach was completely gutted and rescue teams had to break in using special equipment.

Train accidents in India have killed 1,220 people over the past five years, railway officials recently revealed.

India's railway operates 9,000 passenger trains and carries some 18 million passengers every day, connecting every corner of the country.

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Reproduced under licence from BBC News © 2012 BBC

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