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35 die as TN Express coach catches fire

Hyderabad/Chennai: In one of India's worst train tragedies, at least 35 passengers were killed, most of them in their sleep, and 25 injured when a coach of the Delhi-Chennai Tamil Nadu Express caught fire near Nellore in Andhra Pradesh early Monday, officials said.

The fire broke out between 4.30 a.m. and 4.45 a.m. in the S-11 coach minutes after the Chennai-bound train left Nellore railway station in south coastal Andhra Pradesh, about 450 km from Hyderabad.

The death toll may go up, as a total of 72 passengers were travelling in the second-class reserved coach, which was gutted in the fire. Some eyewitnesses have put the death toll at 50.

"More than 35 passengers are dead and 25 are injured. The injured have been admitted in hospitals," B. Rami Reddy, District Revenue Officer and Additional District Magistrate at Nellore, told IANS over phone.

Officials said 30 bodies had been recovered from the charred coach and 12 of them were identified. An autopsy on the bodies is being conducted at Nellore railway station. 

Congress MP Chinta Mohan who visited the site of the tragedy said that over 40 persons had been killed. As many as 15 passengers are believed to have jumped down from the burning coach but majority of them could not escape. 

Passengers, who had no reservation and were sitting or standing near the doors were lucky while others sleeping on berths, especially the upper and middle berths, had no time even to rush towards the doors that got jammed.

Many were believed to have been charred to death before they could realise what was happening. Rescue workers found bodies lying on berths. A body was seen in a sitting posture, indicating that the man could not even attempt a escape.

Charred bodies and pieces of human flesh were seen lying among the mangled remains of the coach. Nellore District Collector B. Sridhar said the bodies were burnt beyond recognition and they were trying to identify the victims with the help of their relatives. He said the burning bogie was detached to prevent the fire from spreading to other coaches.

He quoted some witnesses as saying that the fire was caused by an electrical short circuit near the toilet.

The injured were admitted to various government and private hospitals in Nellore town.

"There may be 30 bodies lying in the coach. It is horrific," added Congress legislator Anam Vivekananda Reddy after visiting the accident site.

A witness told reporters that many were trapped inside when the flames engulfed the bogie.

"I was lucky to come out but many passengers could not escape as two doors were jammed and the smoke spread fast," said Sudhir.

Barring the gutted coach and three other bogies, the train reached its destination Chennai, 155 km from Nellore, a few hours later.

A special train from Chennai carrying the relatives of those travelling in the ill-fated coach was also sent to Nellore.

A senior Southern Railway official told IANS in Chennai: "The train will bring back the affected passengers from Nellore."

The list of passengers travelling in the S-11 coach of Tamil Nadu Express has been pasted at the Chennai Central station, added the official.

Train 12622 had left New Delhi 10.30 p.m. Saturday and was scheduled to reach Chennai at 7.15 a.m. Monday.

The long distance train covers 2,181 km and passes through Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh before entering Tamil Nadu.

According to railway officials, the passengers of the ill-fated bogie had boarded at Delhi, Agra, Jhansi, Warangal and Vijayawada.

The railways have announced Rs.5 lakh ex-gratia to the families of each of those killed and Rs.1 lakh to the critically injured. — IANS




Bindra crashes out of Olympics, Narang qualifies

London: Beijing Olympics gold medallist Abhinav Bindra crashed out of the London Games by failing to qualify for men's 10-metre air rifle final while compatriot Gagan Narang made it with an overall score of 598 here on Monday.

Bindra, who became India's first individual Olympic gold medallist in Beijing, shot 594 to finish 16th out of 47 contestants. 

Narang was one of the top eight shooters who qualified for the medal round later in the day. — IANS



Grid failure leads to blackout in northern states

New Delhi: Entire North India today plunged into the worst power crisis in a decade throwing normal life out of gear for several hours in eight states with collapse of the Northern Grid early morning.

From Railways to Delhi Metro to water supplies, many of the services were severely hit since the grid failed at 2:35 A.M. Office-goers and students faced harrowing times in the national Capital where the Metro train services were disrupted.

Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir suffered the power outage. Besides, union territory of Chandigarh was also snapped from the grid.

Till afternoon, Power Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said that 60 per cent of electricity supply had resumed. He said that power was drawn from Bhutan and Eastern and Western grids as generating stations in the North had come to a halt.

Normalcy would take a few more hours, officials said.

More than 8,000 MW capacity of the country's largest electricity producer NTPC, spread across six power plants, was hit.

Shinde said, "the fault is not known as yet... somewhere near Agra, a failure has happened. We will inquire (into) that". However, Delhi Power Minister Haroon Yusuf blamed neighbouring states for over drawing electricity from the grid.

Services of about 300 trains, including Rajdhani, Shatbadi and Duronto, were severely affected.

Shinde announced a three-member panel to look into the power failure, the worst since 2002.

The grid failure not only impacted more than one fourth of the country's population but also several industrial areas and the information technology services in Gurgaon and Noida in the NCR region. — PTI




Train services hit due to grid failure 

Chandigarh: Train services were disrupted in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh due to collapse of the northern grid this morning, leaving a large number of passengers stranded.

A number of passenger trains bound for Delhi and beyond, Chandigarh, Amritsar, Jammu, Ferozepur and Kalka were stranded at way side stations due to failure of electricity, a senior railway official told PTI here.

He said efforts were on to move the passenger trains with diesel engines after detaching them from running goods trains which would remain halted at way side railway stations.

The stations where passenger trains were stranded include Ambala, Kurukshetra, Phillaur, Sirhind, Ludhiana, Phagwara and Karnal.

Some trains were stranded mid way as the electric engines hauling them came to a halt due to failure of power at about 2.30 A.M.

Kalka Chandigarh Delhi Shatabdi Express left the local station 90 minutes behind scheduled departure of 6.53 AM after a diesel engine was attached to it.

The trains affected include Amritsar Delhi Shatabdi Express, Allahabad Chandigarh Unchahaar, Lucknow Chandigarh Sadbhavna, Howraha Kalka Mail, Delhi Jammu Mail and a number of other super fast, express, passenger and local trains.
The official said that the signal system had also blanked at a number of places due to the power failure. — PTI





Court convicts 22, acquits 61 in Deepda Darwaza riots case

Mehsana (Gujarat): A local court on Monday convicted 22 accused in the 2002 Deepda Darwaza riots case in which 11 persons of a family were killed in the aftermath of the Godhra train carnage but absolved them of the serious charges of murder and criminal conspiracy. 

Designated special judge S C Srivastava acquitted 61 others out of the total 83 accused in the case, including former BJP MLA Prahlad Gosa and ex-municipal president of BJP Dayabhai Patel. 

Out of the 22 convicted, 21 have been convicted of the charge of attempt to murder and rioting while former police inspector of Visnagar town, M K Patel, has been convicted of dereliction of duty. 

Of those acquitted, 10 have been absolved from all charges, while the rest have been given benefit of doubt. 

The quantum of punishment is likely to be pronounced later in the day. 

A mob had killed 11 members of a single family, including two children and a 65-year-old woman, on February 28, 2002 in Deepda Darwaza area of Visnagar town in Mehsana district of Gujarat. 

Initially, charges had been framed against 83 accused, including three women, but later the court allowed the application of complainant Mohammad Iqbal Baloch, listing former BJP MLA Prahlad Gosa and former police inspector, Visnagar town M K Patel, as additional accused in the case taking the total number to 85. 

However, one of the accused against whom charges were framed was found to be minor at the time of the crime, following which the court ordered his trial by a juvenile court, while one of the accused died during the course of trial. — PTI



Four children killed as local train rams into school bus

Amritsar: Four children were killed and 19 others were injured when a speeding mini local train rammed into their school bus at an unmanned railway crossing at Kot Mehtab Singh village near here today.

The mini local train was moving from Beas Railway Station to Goindwal when it rammed into the school bus near Baba Bakala at Kot Mehtab Singh village, about 35 kms from here.

Deputy Superintendent of Police Suba Singh said the school bus carrying students was crossing the unmanned railway crossing when it was hit by the 'small rail bus', leaving four students dead on the spot.

A rail bus is a single coach train shaped like a bus.

Nineteen injured passengers were shifted to a hospital being run by Radha Soami Sect at Beas.

There were 23 students in the bus at the time of the mishap. The students were studying in the ‘Sant Baba Majha Singh Karmjot Model School at Baba Bakala town. The students were in the age group of 12 to 14 years. The DSP said the rail bus was moving at a high speed which was against the norms.Back




Chidambaram meets Kokrajhar victims

Kokrajhar: Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram on Monday met victims of ethnic violence in a camp for refugees in Assam’s strife-torn Kokrajhar district and assured them of all possible assistance.

The Home Minister, who flew in from Guwahati in a special helicopter, met refugees in the camp at the Titaguri High School in Kokrajhar.

The visit comes two days after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited the district and announced a Rs. 300 crore package.

Chidambaram was accompanied by Union Minister of State for Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) Paban Singh Ghatowar and State Transport Minister Chandan Brahma.

He will meet top district officials and is expected to visit camps in neighbouring Dhubri district, where thousands of people have been displaced in the clashes between Bodos and minorities. — PTI




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