Andhra Pradesh: Toll rises to 26 in Nanded Express train fire

Twenty-six people, including two children, were killed and 12 injured when a fire broke out in an AC coach of the Bangalore-Nanded Express train at Kothacheruvu near Puttaparthi in the early hours of Saturday.

Quoting preliminary reports, Railway Minister Mallikarjun Kharge, who rushed to the spot, said the fire in the AC 3-tier B-1 coach could have been caused by a short circuit. He announced an inquiry into the incident. 

"Preliminary reports indicate the cause of the fire was electrical short-circuit near the air-conditioning unit," said Andhra DGP B Prasada Rao. Railway Board Chairman Arunendra Kumar said prima facie there could be two reasons short circuit and presence of inflammable material.

According to reports, the fire broke out at 3:10 am, when most of the 65 passengers were sleeping. Some managed to escape by breaking the window panes or running to the next coach. The train was stopped and the B-1 coach detached to stop the fire from spreading.

Fire and emergency service vehicles from Puttaparthi were called in to douse the flames. The Kothacheruvu police, Ananthapuram district police, Railway Protection Force and the state railway police rushed to the spot. Local residents also helped in the rescue operation.

By 11:30 am, the rescue team had pulled out 26 bodies. Nine of the bodies have been identified as P Leela, Rajanathan, N Sudha, K Kulakarni, Amir Kumar, Eshwarappa Lingappa, Bhagyaraj, Sarvamngala and S R Krishnamurthy. DNA tests will be performed to identify the remaining bodies.

Among those who are reported missing are Dr Asra, her son Mohammed Rahi and brother-in-law Ibrahim Rahi, software engineer Rahul of Adhoni and engineer Prathap Vinay.

While six of the injured passengers suffered minor burns, the others sustained 15-45 per cent burns.

Meanwhile, Kharge announced an ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakh to the next of kin of the deceased, Rs 1 lakh for those with serious injuries and Rs 50,000 for the others injured.

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