Anantapur: A day after 26 people were charred to death after an AC coach of the Bangalore-Nanded Express caught fire near Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh, a railway official said that the time guard got late in giving the smoke alarm which could have averted the incident.
Rajeev Bhargava , General Manager South Western Railway said, "Passengers were fast asleep, by the time the smoke alarm was given by guard it was too late."
The coach was travelling with full capacity of all 64 seats when the fire broke out. The reason for the fire though not yet ascertained is said to be due to a short circuit. All that remains of the coach is the shards of glass in every window that bear testimony to the desperation with which people tried to jump out of the burning train.
Sharan, who was on board the fatal bogie with four other family members managed to save two others but the others were left helpless. "We don't know what happened, all the curtains were burning, we tried to break the window but could not," Sharan said.
Another survivor, Man Singh, said, "There was one door that could not be opened and people didn't know what was happening they were crying trying to get out of the coach and when they came out, it was a forest. We only heard women and children weeping."
By the time the rescue operations came to an end, railway officials had pulled out 26 bodies from the burnt AC coach. DNA tests had to be carried out on the spot for those charred beyond recognition. So far 18 bodies out of 26 have been identified.
Mallikarjun Kharge, Railways Minister, said, "How it happened, whether it was lack of maintenance, or was negligence of staff or an electrical fault is yet to be ascertained."
While a compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the families of the deceased has been announced and two inquiries have been ordered, the question still remains as to what caused the fire.