The final death toll due to the fire in a coach of the Tamil Nadu Express is now 32. Authorities have said that 25 persons were injured in the incident. Railway Minister Mukul Roy has announced a compensation of Rs five lakh for the next of kin of those who died due to the fire. Here are the developments as they happened through the day.
3:55 pm: The Standing Committee on Railways will work out ways to prevent recurrence of ‘gory’ mishaps like on the New Delhi-Chennai Tamil Nadu Express and present them before Parliament, its chairman DMK legislator TR Baalu has been quoted as saying by PTI.
Baalu also condoled the deaths in today’s accident and said it was a matter of concern.
“The next meeting of the Standing Commitee, which comprises Members of Parliament and higher officials from the Railway Board, will discuss steps to be taken to prevent recurrence of such gory incidents and present it to the Parliament for consideration,” he said in a statement.
2:30 pm: And here are some images from the terrible fire that claimed over 30 lives this morning near Nellore.
Some of the images are graphic and viewer discretion is advised.
2:10 pm: Another recommendation the committee had made was putting a folding ladder that could be deployed in order to allow passengers to get out of compartments quicker.
“A simple ladder or equivalent feature with a permanent fitment or foldable and deployable provision should be available for assisting passengers to get down from coaches in the event of accident,” the panel noted.
Unfortunately most of the safety facilities have not been implemented due to a lack of funds.(If you want to read the complete report by the panel, click here.)
Wonder whether these features are among those that Mukul Roy is seeking funds for from the Prime Minister?
2:05 pm: So what is Dinesh Trivedi talking about? The panel set up by the Indian Railways to examine safety, headed by eminent nuclear scientist Anil Kakodkar, had submitted its report before the Railway Budget, in which it had made a range of recommendations on how to improve safety in Indian Railways.
Noting that while fires did not claim the most number of lives on Indian Railways (unmanned railway crossings do) the panel had noted that the possibility of fires were highest between 1400 to 0600 hours. The incident at Nellore incidentally took place around 4:30 am.
The panel also recommended the provision of flame detection systems in railway coaches to sound alarms and warn passengers in the event of a fire. In the case of the Tamil Nadu Express, most of the witnesses have been quoted as saying they woke up only after the fire was already raging.
1:50 pm: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has expressed his condolences to the victims of the fire and asked the Railway Ministry to render all assistance to the affected.
Singh has conveyed his sympathies to the kin of those who died in the accident. He asked Railways to work with the Andhra government to coordinate and speed up rescue and relief measures besides rendering all assistance to the kin of the victims.
1:35 pm: Here’s the video of Dinesh Trivedi speaking with CNN-IBN about the condition of the railways and what needs to be done.
1:05 pm: Former Railway minister Dinesh Trivedi weighs in on the debate and says that the Railways “is in a mess”.
“The Railways system has collapsed. Until you address safety you will see such incidents happen almost regularly,” he told CNN-IBN.
Trivedi says safety and modernisation need to go hand in hand. He asks the Prime Minister to look at the situation in the Railways and says harsh steps may need to be taken to prevent such incidents in the future.
Wonder what Mamata Banerjee thinks about her MP’s views?
12:50 pm: Roy has said that he had met with the Prime Minister and told them of the need to improve the condition of the Railways.
The Railways Minister said that the he and the Railway Board would meet with the Planning Commission seeking assistance to improve the technology on board Indian Railways
“We have spoken to the Prime Minister for a safety fund. We will submit a detailed project report to the Prime Minister,” he said.
“Gross budgetary support is required for security and safety. We should have it sorted in first week of August,” Roy said.
Perhaps he should be looking closer to home for a solution. His predecessor, Dinesh Trivedi, lost his job after attempting to raise passenger fares in order to improve safety and facilities on board the railways.
12:40 pm: Railways Minister Mukul Roy said he has asked the Railway Board to set up a high power committee which would investigate the cause of the fire.
Asked whether the blaze was caused by a short circuit, Roy said, “Nothing is being ruled out and nothing can be said
without an investigation. It will be investigated whether it was caused by a short circuit or a passenger was carrying
12:30 pm:The railways has released a detailed list of the passengers who were injured in the fire on the Tamil Nadu Express today which has been put up by Hindustan Times.
Bodies are still being taken out of the burnt S 11 coach at the Nellore station, Times Now reports.
Some of the bodies had been burnt very badly and due to the high temperature it had been difficult to extricate them, the channel reported.
11:55 am: Incidentally over 30 people have died on Indian Railways so far this year before the fire on the Tamil Nadu Express.
The Doon Express derailed near Jaunpur, in Uttar Pradesh on 31 May leaving 6 passengers dead and over 100 injured.
Before that came the accident in which the Hampi Express crashed into a goods train in Andhra Pradesh on 22 May. The accident left 25 dead and 43 injured.
The CAG has also pointed out that the Railways has given a low priority to safety throughout .
Taking note of the slow progress in measures to prevent accidents, the CAG pointed out despite field trials carried out since 2001, a robust and reliable anti-collision device (ACD) has not been developed by railways yet.
The CAG found despite commissioning of the train protection warning system (TPWS) in Southern Railway in May 2009 at a cost of Rs 49.49 crore, the trial reports indicated various failures of the equipment requiring modifications in the software.
11:30 am: Additional DG Railways VSK Kaumudi told PTI that 32 bodies have been recovered so far from the charred S-11 bogie of the train.
South Central Railway officials in Hyderabad said 25 people have been injured in the mishap and have been admitted
to different hospitals. Additional Joint Collector Laxmikant said the toll could rise up to 35 as some of the bodies are still to be recovered from the charred S-11 compartment.
Nellore district police officials said 14 passengers in the bogie were safe.
Railway police officials have appealed to realtives of the victims of the tragedy to email them details/ photos at firstname.lastname@example.org. The details can be used to identify the victims.
11:20 am : A preliminary list of those injured in the fire has been put up in Chennai Railway station which the Hindu has listed.
The patients admitted at the Government Hospital in Nellore: Rekha (5), Veena (63), Sambasiva Rao, Verma Sirish, Venkata Koteshwar Rao, Verma, Hussain, Raghavan, KR Sunil Kumar, Harshid, Sandeep Agnihotri, Amir Preth Singh.
The patients at the People’s Polyclinic in Nellore are: Vijayakumar and Krushi.
Relatives of the patients can contact the Government Hospital at: 0861-2330024 or 0861-2328500 and the People’s Polyclinic at: 0861-2347704, 0861-2309662
11:00 am: Additional DG Railways VSK Komdi has said that efforts are on to identify those who died in the fire in the S-11 coach of the Chennai-bound Tamil Nadu Express in Nellore, Andhra Pradesh. Some of the bodies have been badly charred due to the fire. Watch the video here.
10:30 am : Families whose relatives may have been travelling on board the Tamil Nadu Express in the S-11 coach can email details of their family members to the Government Railway Police at email@example.com.
Police authorities have requested relatives of those who may have been injured to send them details so that they can identify the victims and those who have been admitted to the hospital with injuries.
10:10 am : The district collector of Nellore has confirmed that the death toll will be between 30 to 35 due to the fire in a coach of the Tamil Nadu Express.
Twenty-six passengers were rescued from the coach S-11 which was completely gutted, PTI quoted Nellore Collector B Sridhar as saying.
Two of the injured were in a serious condition, he said. “The death toll in the affected coach will be around 30-35,” he said.
However, an Associated Press report quoted Sridhar as saying that the death toll from the fire had risen to 47.
“There was a short circuit near the toilet and the train was moving at a speed of 110 kms per hour. It was going to Chennai from Delhi. All the passengers were asleep when the fire broke out at 4:30 AM. People were not able to come out immediately,” he said.
10:00 am: Railway officials have said an compensation of Rs five lakh for relatives of those who died in the incident. The Hindu has spoken to some of the victims of the fire and describe waking up to screams.
“I woke up after hearing loud screams. All I could see was black smoke,” Y Sampath, a software engineer at Syntel who was travelling aboard the train with his sister, told the newspaper. Sampath escaped through one of the doors that had not been locked. However, his sister who is also a software professional was missing.
The report also lists the names of some of those injured who have been admitted in the hospital: Verma from Raghav Nagar; Venkata Koteshwara Rao from Vijayawada; Hussain from Tirunelveli; Raghavan from Chennai; KK Sunil Kumar, from Delhi; Harsha from Chennai; and Sandeep Agnihotri from Jaipur.
0950 am: A PTI report confirms that 15 passengers have been confirmed as dead and 25 others injured.
Railway officials said bodies of 15 passengers have been recovered from the coach.
25 of the injured have been admitted to a hospital.
0940 am: The rescue train from Chennai has left for Nellore in order to help identify the passengers who were injured or killed in the accident.
An NDTV report says that the doors of the coach may have jammed which resulted in people being trapped after the fire broke out.
The coach reportedly had 17 passengers who boarded the train at Delhi and 11 who boarded it at Bhopal.
The report also indicates that a station master at Nellore may have spotted the fire and got the train to stop.
0910 am: A rescue train is leaving from Chennai to Nellore to transport the relatives of passengers who may have been injured in the accident, reports CNN IBN.
Railway officials say the death toll could be between 25 to 30 people. Five deaths have been confirmed so far, railway officials told the channel.
Rescue operations are still on.
19 coaches of the train have been taken to next station while five coaches have been taken to Nellore, a spokesperson for Southern Railways said.
All the trains on that route are operational now, the spokesperson said.
9:00 am : Several people were killed and others injured after the Delhi-Chennai Tamil Nadu Express caught fire near Nellore in the early hours of Monday, officials said.
It was initially reported by the IANS that five people were killed, though the toll was likely to rise. However, latest Times of India reports suggest that at least 25 people have died in the mishap and the toll is likely to go up.
A fire broke out around 5.30 am in the S11 compartment minutes after the Chennai-bound train left Nellore railway station in south Andhra Pradesh, about 450 km from here.
Nellore district collector B. Sridhar said five bodies were brought out while 15 injured were shifted to hospital.
While 15 passengers are believed to have jumped down from the burning compartment, there was no official word about others. A total of 72 passengers were travelling in the compartment.
A witness told reporters that many were trapped inside when the flames engulfed the compartment. “I was lucky to come out but many passengers could not escape as two doors were jammed and the smoke spread fast,” said Sudhir.
Fire fighting personnel extinguished the fire and rescue workers were using gas cutters and other equipment to retrieve the bodies.
Ambulances were pressed into service to shift the injured to hospital.
Top officials including district collector and superintendent of police rushed to the scene and supervised rescue and relief work.
The district collector said burning bogie was detached to prevent the fire from spreading to other compartments.
He quoted some witnesses as saying that the fire was caused by short circuit near the toilet.
As the train was not moving at full speed, some passengers either entered the adjoining compartment or jumped down. However, those sleeping on the upper berths could not escape as the smoke spread fast and even the doors were not opening.
Helpline numbers at Nellore: 0861-2345863, 864, 865, 866 and 0866-2576924; At New Delhi Station: 011-23342954, 23341072, 23341074.