Zee Media Bureau
Thane: At least nine passengers, including a woman, were charred to death when a fire engulfed three coaches of the speeding Mumbai-Dehradun Express near Dahanu town in Maharashtra`s Thane district early Wednesday.
Among the nine dead, one is a woman and four are men while the rest were yet to be identified, said Western Railway PRO Sharat Chandra. Four persons have sustained minor injuries, said police.
Six coaches of the train were detached and five new coaches were added when it left the site on its onward journey to Dehradun at 5:30 am. All other north-bound train services which were hit on the line were restored by 6:40 am, the official said.
The authorities made arrangements for free travel to Dahanu for the victims` relatives, and 500 packets of food and beverages for the passengers on the train.
Expressing anguish over the tragedy, Union Railway Minister Mallikarjun Kharge announced an ex-gratia of Rs five lakh each to the next of kin of those killed. Rs one lakh will be given to those seriously injured and a sum of Rs 50,000 will be given to those who received minor injuries, chairman, Railway Board, Arunendra Kumar said.
Declaring that there were “no injuries apart from those who were killed on fire on Mumbai-Dehradun Express”, “deeply-pained” Kharge said: “We will await the report to know what the cause was.”
The Railway Board has ordered an inquiry into the incident and related aspects of the fire in the 19019 Bandra Terminus-Dehradun Express train.
The fire erupted in S-3 coach and soon spread to other adjoining coaches when the passengers were sleeping at about 2:50 am, Chandra said. The cause of the blaze is yet to be ascertained. Railway sources said short circuit cannot be ruled out as burnt cables were found lying under the electric board of S-3 coach.
"The fire was noticed on the speeding train by a level-crossing gateman who alerted the guard. The guard informed the driver and the train was stopped. The gateman did a commendable job and averted a major disaster," the spokesperson said.
Ten passengers injured due to the smoke and toxic fumes were administered first aid in the accident relief vans which were rushed from Mumbai and Gujarat. The injured were later shifted to hospitals in Dahanu and Gholwad, an official said.
Five of the nine passengers who died were identified as Deepika Shah (65), Dev Shankar Upadhyay (48), Surendra Shah (68), Nasir Khan Ahmed Khan Pathan (50), and Feroz Khan (38).
The fire was brought under control shortly after the train was brought to a halt at Gholwad station, around 145 km from north of Mumbai on the Maharashtra-Gujarat border.
Accident relief vans have been sent from Mumbai and Gujarat to assist in the relief operations.
Top officials, including the divisional railway manager, have rushed to the tragedy site and are supervising the relief operations.
Railways helpline numbers - Valsad - 241903, Mumbai Central - 23011853, Borivali – 2053001