Train fire kills dozens in southern India

2012-07-30 09:00

Hyderabad — A fire engulfed a passenger car on a moving train in southern India on Monday, killing at least 47 people, officials said.

Most of the passengers were asleep when the fire broke out at about 04:00 on the overnight train from New Delhi to the southeastern city of Chennai, said local official B Sridhar

A train station worker noticed the burning coach on the train as it passed through the town of Nellore, nearly 500km south of Hyderabad, the capital of Andhra Pradesh state, Sridhar said.

Once the alarm was raised, the train was stopped and the passenger car detached from the rest of the train to prevent the blaze from spreading. Passengers were evacuated once the train was halted.

"Since the fire had engulfed one door of the coach, people had to rush to the other end of the coach to exit," Sridhar said by telephone, speaking from the accident site.

He said the fire may have been caused by an electrical short circuit in the coach.

Power outage

The blaze killed 47 people, said Anil Kumar, regional railway manager

At least 28 other passengers were hospitalised with burns, Sridhar said, adding that at least two of the injured were in critical condition.

This comes as a massive power outage plunged northern India into darkness and stranded thousands of travellers on trains on Monday after a supply grid tripped because of overloading, officials said.

Trains across eight northern Indian states and metro services in New Delhi were affected by the power outage that struck at about 02:30 local time.

Hospitals and emergency services were running on diesel generators.

People, woken from sleep, came out of their homes in New Delhi's sweltering heat as the entire city turned dark.

Frequent blackouts

It could take up to 12 hours to fully restore the electricity supply in the eight northern states, including New Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan, the chairperson of the state-run Uttar Pradesh state Power Corporation Avinash Awasthi said.

The power grid collapsed because some states apparently drew more power than they were authorised to do to meet the rising demand during the summer, Awasthi said, adding that Monday's outage was the worst to hit the country in 11 years.

Blackouts are a frequent occurrence in many Indian cities because of shortage of power supply and an antiquated electricity grid.

Two weeks ago, angry crowds blocked traffic and clashed with police after power blackouts in the Delhi suburb of Gurgaon that houses many high-rise apartment blocks and offices.

With no power in some neighbourhoods for more than 24 hours, people erected blockades that paralysed traffic for several hours.

Transmission and distribution losses in some states are as much as 50% because of theft and connivance of employees in the power distribution sector.