Train fire kills dozens in southern India

Officials in Nellor say at least 47 people were killed and expect the toll to rise.

Railway workers and officials inspect the burnt coach of a passenger train at Nellor.
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HYDERABAD, INDIA // A fire swept through a train car packed with sleeping passengers in southern India today, killing at least 47 people and sending panicked survivors rushing for the only clear exit once the train stopped.

Investigators found charred remains of victims still in their sleeping berths and were struggling to identify them.

A railway station worker noticed the burning coach as the overnight train from New Delhi to the southeastern city of Chennai passed through the town of Nellore at about 4am said local official B Sridhar. Nellor is nearly 500 kilometres south of Hyderabad, the capital of Andhra Pradesh state.

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.

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

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.

Railway and medical workers were now trying to identify the dead, he said.

"This is a very difficult task, since some of the bodies are charred beyond recognition," Sridhar said, adding that officials are making preliminary identification based on the reservations chart from the train's records.

India has one of the world's largest train networks. Around 20 million people in India travel by train each day.