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Close shave after fire in train

- Passengers avert disaster by alerting authorities

Bhubaneswar, Jan. 13: Passengers of the Chennai-Howrah Coromandel Express had a close shave when one of the compartments of the train caught fire in the wee hours today barely 2km from Bhubaneswar railway station.

The fire was spotted in the coach next to the engine around 4.30am near Lingaraj Vihar station on the city outskirts. It was brought under control an hour later. No one was injured. The train was delayed by around three hours because of the incident.

Eyewitnesses said that around 4.30am, as the train was nearing Bhubaneswar, they saw smoke coming out from a bulb in the ceiling of the general compartment, which was next to the engine. Soon, the fire spread to other parts of the compartment, in which there were more than 50 passengers. Since the train was nearing Bhubaneswar, most people were awake and they immediately pulled the chain, averting a major disaster.

“We pulled the chain and jumped out of the compartment to save our lives,” said Ranit Mandal, a passenger. Sanjay Sahu, who was to alight at Bhubaneswar, said some passengers spotted the smoke emanating from a bulb and fan near a door of the compartment.

“A passenger was trying to put out the fire. But it spread. When the train stopped, we ran for our lives,” said Sahu. Passengers from other compartments also got off when the train stopped.

The train halted near the Panama gate railway overbridge and the crew tried to douse the fire with their fire-fighting equipment. Later, the local fire brigade staff reached the spot and extinguished the fire.

Siba Charan Mohanty, the officer in-charge of the fire fighting team, said two vehicles from the Kalpana fire brigade office rushed to the spot after getting a call around 4.40am.

“By the time we reached the spot, the compartment in question had been evacuated. It took nearly one hour for the two fire tenders to put out the fire. There was no casualty,” said Mohanty. He said the fire might have been caused by a short circuit. Senior railway officials rushed to the spot.

After the fire was brought under control, the affected compartment was detached and sent to the nearby repair centre at Satya Nagar.

Officials said either a cigarette butt or a short circuit caused the fire. “We are inquiring into the matter. Thankfully there was no casualty. The passengers of the affected compartment were accommodated in a sleeper coach and the train left for Howrah,” said Sudarshan Nayak, the chief security commissioner of the East Coast Railway.

On August 17 last year, the Bhubaneswar–Delhi Rajadhani Express had caught fire 20 minutes after it arrived at Bhubaneswar station. One compartment was completely gutted in that incident.