Monday, June 2, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Rail coach catches fire
Northern Railway sounds alert
Our Correspondent and PTI

Amritsar, June 1
A stationary new rail coach that had arrived from the Kapurthala rail coach factory a few days ago, caught fire at around 10.30 am here today.

It took four fire engines nearly half an hour to douse the fire that had erupted in coach no. 03211/A which was a three-tier sleeper. Firemen had to break the sealed windows of the burning coach to insert water pipes to douse the raging fire.

Railway employees showed sharp presence of mind by delinking the coupling of the burning coach from the other two coaches. According to the information available, all three coaches were meant for Central Railway and were bound for Mumbai.

The fire in the coach took passengers alighting from a train on platform no. 5 by surprise. Panic prevailed among the public as people ran helter skelter on the platform as high flames engulfed the coach in a matter of minutes, eyewitnesses said. The burning coach was pushed away from the other two coaches by the Railway employees.

Mr Shamaun Gill, a fire official, talking to this correspondent said when the fire engines reached the spot, the Railway employees had already separated the burning coach. According to eyewitnesses, about six to eight fire extinguishers were used to douse the fire before the arrival of fire engines but the effort proved futile as the coach was sealed and locked. The SHO, Government Railway Police (GRP), Mr Ajit Singh, refused to comment on the origin of the fire and said investigations were on. Mr Sarabjit Singh Bhullar, ATM, too, refused to comment about shortage or any such deliberate attempt to set the coach aflame.

The entire cabin of the coach was burnt, including seats and mattresses. The paint stood peeled while the ceiling of the coach was blackened. The overhead lights had burst and the fans were seen twisted and hanging. Even the two bathrooms attached to the coach faced the brunt of the raging fire with metal fittings in the bathrooms contorted and turned black. According to the authorities, an investigation has been ordered into the incident.

JALANDHAR: After the incidents of train fire in Punjab in a row, the Railway authorities in the state have been instructed to be more vigilant to avoid any kind of untoward incidents in future.

After the fire incidents in the trains during the past fortnight, including the Frontier Mail fire in which 38 persons were charred to death, the authorities of the Ferozepore division of Northern Railway have asked officials at every station to be more vigilant, the railway sources said here on Sunday.

Even the Railway Protection Force has been issued clear instructions to keep a watch on suspicious persons and fine those who are found smoking at the stations.

Instructions have also been issued to close the shutters of windows of the unoccupied rail coaches parked in the yards to avoid any kind of sabotage, the sources said.

There have been four incidents on fire in the trains during the past fortnight, including the Frontier Mail fire at Ladhowal in Ludhiana on May 15, another fire in a DMU train near Jalalabad on May 28, yesterday’s fire in the engine of the Amritsar-bound Shan-e-Punjab Express and Sunday’s incidents of fire in one of the four newly manufactured coaches, which was parked at the Amritsar Railway station.

While the inquiry report of Frontier Mail fire incident was still awaited, three more incidents of fire, particularly in Punjab, have put the Railway authorities on high alert and the station officials have been instructed to be more vigilant to avoid any untoward incident, the sources said.

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