|Sunday, February 20, 2000,
die in Punjab Mail blaze
JALGAON, Feb 19 (UNI, PTI) Eighteen persons were killed and 23 injured in a fire which engulfed six coaches of the 2137 Dn Punjab Mail early this morning at Bhusawal Division between Dushkheda and Sawada in Maharashtra.
The bodies of nine men, six women and three children were charred beyond recognition.
According to Railway Board sources in Delhi, the fire which started in S-8 coach of the train at around 3.30 a.m., soon spread to adjoining carriages. It was distinguished by 8.30 a.m.
The train had left Mumbais Chhatrapati Shivaji Station at 7.10 p.m. yesterday for Ferozepore.
Railway enquiry counters have been opened at the Chhatrapati Shivaji terminus at Mumbai (2621540), Dadar (4110092), Kalyan (911323447), Old Delhi (3967332), New Delhi (3344128), Nizamuddin (4619748), Ferozepore (437057) and Faridkot (50946).
The Railway Ministry did not rule out sabotage or mischief behind the tragedy.
The fire started at 3.30 a.m. in the S-8 coach when passengers were asleep. It soon spread to bogies S-3, S-4, S-5, S-6 and S-7. Sources said many passengers were injured because they jumped from the running train.
Top officials have reached the site and the matter is being investigated, a Central Railway PRO said. Since the bodies were badly charred, officials were facing difficulty in identifying the victims.
General Manager K.B. Shankaran, Chief Security Officer Rakesh Saksena, the Chief Security Commissioner and the Chief Electrical and Mechanical Engineer reached the accident site on a special train.
Union Minister of State for Railways Bangaru Laxman announced an ex gratia of Rs 4 lakh for the next of kin of the deceased and Rs 500 for those injured in the mishap.
The minister visited the injured admitted to Railway Hospital, Bhusawal, after he came here from Delhi.
According to eyewitnesses, a few college students from Delhi who were returning from a tour saved a number of lives by delinking the carriages on fire from the rest.
Kishan Gupta and his friends saved passengers had left for Ferozepore, the sources said.
NEW DELHI: Minister for Railways Mamata Banerjee has expressed sorrow and grief at the mishap. On receiving news of the accident, she rushed to her office and held a meeting with senior officials.
The fire was first noticed by railway employees after it had passed Dushkhera. They alerted the next station and the engine driver.
Sources in New Delhi said the fire started in a general compartment where some people were found smoking and drinking.
According to preliminary information based on eyewitness accounts, the fire was caused by smouldering cigarette butts thrown by some people in an inebriated condition.
The Railway Ministry in a press note here said although the cause of the incident was yet to be ascertained, another possibility for the mishap could be carelessness on the part of some passengers who were smoking. Electric short circuit was not likely to be the cause as the fire started in a non air-conditioned coach.
An inquiry into the mishap by the Commissioner of Railway Safety, an independent authority under the Ministry of Civil Aviation, has been ordered.
The Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, has expressed shock over the fire accident in Punjab Mail in Maharashtra.
Expressing grief over the loss of lives in the tragedy, Mr Badal wished for the speedy recovery of the passengers who sustained burns.
Following is the list of the injured: Maithili Madan Mohan (Ulhasnagar, Thane), Devi Soni Sharma (Borivali, Mumbai), Mona Duseja (Ulhasnagar, Thane), Madan Mohan (Ulhasnagar, Thane), Rakesh Garg (Ferozabad), Varun Deep Singh (Greater Noida, UP), Anjeet Banjerjee (Greater Noida, UP), Gajendra Pandey (Greater Noida, UP), Vinod Tank (Delhi), D.K. Arora (Lucknow), Prakash Duseja (Ulhasnagar, Thane), S.M. Khan (Nerul, Navi Mumbai), Adi Nathan (Kidwai, New Delhi), Sagar Paranjpe (New Delhi) and Namit Jain (Meerut).
Two of the injured are railway employees.
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