Hundreds of passengers on board Mumbai-Delhi Rajdhani Express had a miraculous escape when fire broke out in three coaches and the pantry car in the wee hours of today while the speeding train was passing through Rajasthan.
The passengers in the three affected coaches were jolted out of their sleep after dense smoke entered the compartments.
The fire broke out at around 2.20 am when the train was between Alot and Thuriya stations, about 75 km from here, in Kota division of West Central Railways, Ratlam Divisional Commercial Manager Ravi Mohan Sharma said.
It was the alertness of the pantry car staff that prevented the fire from turning into big disaster.
According to highly-placed railway officials, it was the pantry car manager who first noticed the burning wire and immediately halted the train by pulling emergency chain.
The pantry car staff then alerted the passengers in the adjacent coaches to vacate the coaches and alight from the train.
Moreover, coach attendants and pantry staff had helped passengers unload their belongings from the train.
By the time the passengers alighted from the coaches, the pantry car and two coaches were gutted in the fire.
The pantry car in the Rajdhani does not use gas or other flammable fuel. It uses only electricity for cooking.
The four affected coaches were detached at Thuriya. Preliminary investigation suggests that short-circuit caused the fire in B-6 and B-7 coaches and the pantry car, he said.
Sharma said that while B-6 and B-7 were fully damaged by the fire, B-5 and the pantry car suffered minor damages. Railway authorities have announced an ex-gratia of Rs 5,000 each for the 144 passengers in B-6 and B-7 coaches.
Fire tenders were rushed to the spot from Ujjain and Ratlam. Sharma said that the commissioner, railway safety (central circle) had started a probe and the report would be submitted to the Railway Board in seven days.
WCR Chief Public Relations Officer Piyush Mathur said that after the affected coaches were detached, the train left for Delhi at approximately 8.20 on Monday morning.
Rail traffic was disrupted in the Nagda-Kota line for some time due to the incident, he said.
Help-lines have been set up at Kota, Ratlam and Mumbai to provide information about the incident.
Additional Inputs: PTI