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Passengers recount horrors
of the burning train
May 15, 2003 13:05 IST
A passenger travelling on the Frontier Mail, three coaches of which caught fire early on Thursday morning near Ludhiana, had seen sparks near the toilet in S-5 coach minutes before raging flames engulfed the bogie.
Sati Pitoliwali, who boarded the train at Daund, said he raised an alarm but it was too late by then. "There were people screaming. Before anybody could realise what was happening, we saw flames leaping out from the S-4 coach," he said.
A D Singh, a havildar with the army, was travelling from Ambala to Amritsar in S-3 coach. He immediately rushed to the S-4 coach and helped rescue a number of passengers, many of whom were caught unawares.
Singh said a thick blanket of smoke had engulfed the S-4 compartment, the worst affected in the fire. He said the compartment looked like carrying more than its listed 72 passengers.
Another army personnel, Shahji M K, going to Amritsar from Delhi, lost three of his family in the tragedy. Struggling to hold back tears, he said his wife Beti Shahji, son Johny (11) and daughter Tony Shahji (6) were killed in the fire.
Residents of Phaguwal village, nearest to the site of tragedy, were the first to rush to the rescue of the passengers.
Sanjiv Sood and Manmohan Singh said they saw the flames from their house. Soon, 300 people from the small village rushed to the burning train with whatever relief material they could arrange. "Initially, we took water in buckets but it was inadequate," Sood said. The villagers then switched on a tubewell to draw water with pipes.
They also arranged food and water for the passengers.
Anjali Ganpati told PTI in Christian Medical College Hospital, Ludhiana, that five of her family members, including her husband, Lance Naik Patial Ganpati, were missing. "I was sleeping on the upper berth when I felt suffocated. On waking up, I found the compartment was full of smoke...I ran towards the exit and jumped out as the train had stopped by then," she recalled.
More reports from Punjab
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