Twenty-six victims of the Bangalore-Nanded Express fire tragedy were asphyxiated in the locked AC compartment, a preliminary inquiry has indicated. Investigating authorities have not ruled out sabotage as well.
The investigation by experts from an Andhra Pradesh forensic team, railway police and South Western Railway officials revealed that the passengers were first choked by the smoke. “There was so much smoke or fume in the locked AC coach that people died instantly in their sleep,” sources connected with the investigation told Deccan Herald on Monday.
“Since around 20-22 bodies were found on berths, it is possible that they were first choked to death and then burnt. But, where so much smoke came all of a sudden is a question. It could be because someone was carrying inflammable materials, which are not allowed on trains. Another possibility could be a short circuit on the coach. Since all electrical cables are above windows and on the roof, a short circuit or spark can spread quickly,” sources pointed out.
They also affirmed that the fire did not break out when the train was moving. “When smoke or fume was spreading, somebody pulled the chain. When the train was slowing down, there was a sudden blast and the fire spread instantly. Had there been a fire on a moving train, then not only one but at least 10 more coaches would have caught fire.
Since the train was travelling at 80km/hr, wind would have pushed the fire backwards and it would have caused more damage. Moreover, had people jumped off a moving train, they would have died and not sustained minor injuries,” sources said.
They added that dacoits thrive at some places near Penukonda and Hindupur. In a bid to avoid robbery, railway police and officials instruct passengers to be alert and close doors and windows when trains approach Hindupur. Around one and a half hours before the accident, the Bangalore-Nanded Express had its last stop at Hindupur. It was possible that miscreants boarded the train and later lit up something, they said.
There was a possibility that battery of a laptop or mobile phone, put on charge, could have burst late in the night, leading to a spark and the fire. The team is also looking for traces of kerosene or diesel or even a small stove.