Tamil Nadu Express fire – An avoidable tragedy
Chennai: Twenty-four hours have passed since 32 people were charred to death in the fire that engulfed the S11 coach of Chennai-bound Tamil Nadu Express near Nellore in Andhra Pradesh; however a lot of questions remain unanswered.
Amid various theories doing the rounds, including one of sabotage, a high-level probe has been ordered to find out what caused the fire.
However, the bigger question that needs to be answered is – was the death of so many innocents avoidable? Was the train equipped to deal with fire? Why couldn’t people rush to other coaches or disembark when the train came to a halt?
As per information available so far, the superfast train from New Delhi to the Tamil Nadu capital was speeding past Nellore station at a speed of 100 kph when the fire broke out near the toilet in the ill-fated S-11 coach.
Since the fire broke out at 4.30 am, most of the passengers were asleep and by the time they realised what had happened, it was too late for most of them.
Since trains in India rarely have fire alarm system, there was no automatic system to alert the passengers.
Further, at least two of two four doors of the compartment was locked from inside preventing passengers from jumping to safety. And the commotion ensured that most of the managers could not even make it to the adjacent coaches.
Also, the passengers on one side of the coach could not use the emergency windows as a double-engine goods train was passing on the adjacent track just when the train stopped. It took some five minutes for the goods train to clear the track, by then, many had already succumbed.
Those who survived the incident said most of them who lost their lives died due to asphyxiation and in the stampede that occurred in the panic.
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