9 killed in TN train fire mishap; officials blame cylinder "illegally" taken inside for blaze

At least nine people were killed in a fire that broke out in a stationary train compartment in Madurai, Tamil Nadu. The fire was caused by an illegal gas cylinder that was brought on board by Rameswaram-bound passengers.
9 killed in TN train fire mishap; officials blame  cylinder "illegally" taken inside for blaze

Madurai (TN) | At least nine pilgrims bound for Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu met with a tragic end on Saturday when a fire broke out inside a stationary train compartment at the railway station here in the small hours of Saturday, the Southern Railway said.

It also said a gas cylinder "illegally" taken inside the coach led to the blaze.

Various angles including a possible gas leak having triggered the blaze are being probed.

Tamil Nadu Commercial Taxes minister P Moorthy, deputed by Chief Minister M K Stalin to oversee relief efforts, said five men and 4 women perished in the incident.

The others have been accommodated in temporary shelters and arrangements were on to send them back home, he told reporters.

They victims embarked on the pilgrimage from Lucknow last week in a private party coach, and most of them hailed from the Uttar Pradesh capital and its nearby areas.

Six of the nine deceased have been identified. They were three men and women each.

According to one of the survivors, only after a locked door was broken open could many even run towards safety, possibly avoiding a bigger tragedy.

While the Southern Railway initially put the toll at 10, it later revised it to nine. About 20 people were undergoing medical treatment here.

President Droupadi Murmu and Tamil Nadu Governor R N Ravi condoled the deaths and wished speedy recovery for those under treatment.

"Deeply pained to learn about the tragic loss of lives in a fire accident in a stationary train near Madurai junction, Tamil Nadu. I express my heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families and pray for the speedy recovery of the injured," Murmu said in a post on X

Chief Ministers of TN and Uttar Pradesh, M K Stalin and Yogi Adityanath, besides their West Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee, expressed anguish over the incident and condoled the deaths. Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and the Railways announced ex-gratia to the families of the victims.

The fire broke out at 5.15 am on Saturday and Fire service personnel who arrived at the spot half an hour later put down the blaze by 7.15 am, a Southern Railway release said.

"This is a private party coach that was attached at Nagercoil Junction yesterday (Aug 25) by train no. 16730 (Punalur-Madurai Exp). The party coach was detached and kept at Madurai Stabling line. The passengers in

the private party coach have...smuggled gas cylinder and this has caused the fire," the release said.

The party coach had started the journey from Lucknow on August 17, scheduled to return to Chennai on Sunday and proceed to the UP capital from there on, it added.

"While the coach was stabled/parked, some members of the party in the private party coach were using the illegally smuggled cooking gas cylinder unauthorisedly for preparing tea/snacks, which caused the fire in the stabled/ parked coach. Most of the passengers could get out of the coach on noticing the fire. Some passengers had already got down at the platform also before detachment of the coach," it said.

The private party had illegally carried gas cylinder, stove and other inflammable articles "which led to the freak fire accident," it said.

Among the items found at the spot was an LPG cylinder, bag of potatoes, utensils and wooden logs, giving ample indications of attempts to cook food.

The Southern Railway announced holding a statutory inquiry by the Commissioner of Railway Safety into the matter on Sunday.

Alka Prajapati, a survivor undergoing treatment at a government hospital here, said those sleeping were woken up by cries of "fire, fire."

"We were sleeping when we heard the cries and tried to escape. The door was locked so we could not escape immediately. Someone broke the lock and we came out. There was thick smoke and I couldn't breathe properly and just took God's name," she told PTI at the hospital.

Railway employees arrived there 15-20 minutes after all efforts to put out the flames were taken. "But it (the coach) was blazing," she said, still recovering from the shock.

Some survivors who spoke to the media said they were proceeding to Rameswaram.

In moving scenes at the spot, women were seen wailing, possibly over the loss of a dear one, while a child recalled the tense moments before fleeing to safety.

A local eyewitness, auto-driver Mannan Prakash, said the people in the vicinity rushed to the accident spot soon after hearing a "sound", but could not get near due to the fire.

"Some got stuck inside. They could not get down (quickly) since it was a sleeper coach," he said.

Chief Minister Stalin said the victims were proceeding towards Rameswaram for pilgrimage and expressed anguish over the fatal incident.

In a statement, he said he immediately directed Madurai district collector MS Sangeetha to rush to the spot. Arrangements were being made for the transportation of the bodies to their native places, he said.

The CM announced a cash relief of Rs 3 lakh each to the families of the victims.

UP CM Adithyanath announced Rs 2 lakh ex-gratia to the victims' kin.

"The loss of lives in the unfortunate train accident in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, is extremely sad and heart-wrenching. My condolences are with the bereaved families," he said on X.

In a statement, the Uttar Pradesh government said the chief minister spoke to the railway minister, and got details of the incident.

Adityanath also said that instructions have been given to authorities to ensure that the injured receive proper treatment. A toll-free number 1070 has also been issued for quick assistance, he said. The Uttar Pradesh government also mentioned 9454441081 and 9454441075 as helpline numbers.

Southern Railway also announced two help line numbers for information related to the fire incident and causalities-- 9360552608, 8015681915. It announced Rs 10 lakh cash relief to families of victims.

Any individual can book party coach using IRCTC portal. They are not allowed to carry any inflammable material like gas cylinder. The coach is to used only for transportation purpose, the release said, adding senior officials were rushing to the spot.

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