Nine passengers traveling from Uttar Pradesh were killed and over 50 were injured after a fire broke out inside a stationary train compartment near the Madurai Railway Station in the early hours of Saturday, officials said. An ex-gratia of Rs 10 lakh has been announced for the kin of the deceased, Southern Railway announced today.
A “private party coach” was attached at Nagercoil Junction on August 25 by Train Number 16730, the Punalur-Madurai Express, which began its journey from Lucknow on August 17 and had arrived at Madurai at 3.47 am today. The “party coach” was detached and kept at the Madurai Stabling line, where the fire broke out at 5.15 am, according to a statement by Southern Railway. According to the Southern Railway, the fire was triggered by an “illegally smuggled gas cylinder.”
“Today early morning at 5:30 am, there was a fire accident in a coach that was halted at the Madurai railway station…They were pilgrims and were traveling from Uttar Pradesh,” MS Sangeetha, Madurai District Collector, said. “This morning, when they tried to make coffee and tried to light the gas stove, there was a cylinder blast. A total of 55 people have been rescued, and as of now, we have retrieved nine bodies…Rescue operation is underway…,” Madurai District Collector said.
In an official statement, B. Guganesan, Chief Public Relations Officer, Southern Railway, said the fire broke out at 5.15 am in a private party coach at the Madurai yard, and the fire service, which was informed, arrived by 5.45 am. The blaze was put out by 7.15 am. There was no damage to any other coaches.
According to the release by the Railways, “the passengers in the private party coach have illegally smuggled gas cylinders, and this caused the fire. Many passengers had gotten out of the coach after noticing the fire. Some passengers had gotten down on the platform itself.” The “party coach” was scheduled to return to Chennai tomorrow by Train Number 16824, the Kollam-Chennai Egmore Ananthapuri Express, and then return to Lucknow from there.
According to the Railways, any individual can book a party coach using the IRCTC portal. They are not allowed to carry any inflammable material, like gas cylinders. The coach is to be used only for transportation purposes. Several senior officials, like the Divisional Railway Manager (DRM), Additional Divisional Railway Manager (ADRM), and other divisional officers, have reached the site of the mishap.