One of the gutted coaches of the Bangalore-Nanded Express, which caught fire on December 28
Bangalore, Jan. 30: The charging points for laptops and mobile phones should be switched off on all trains between 10pm and 6am, a preliminary railway probe into a train fire that killed 26 people last month has recommended.
The cause of the December 28 blaze in the Bangalore-Nanded Express in Andhra Pradesh is yet to be established but an overheated charger is a possibility, said the commissioner for railway safety (southern circle), Satish Kumar Mittal.
“Although we have not concluded the reason for the fire, we are recommending this as a precautionary measure while we determine the actual cause of the fire,” Mittal told The Telegraph here today.
“These days, passengers use charging points to charge their laptops, mobiles, and in some cases even to heat water for babies or thermal pads for elderly passengers.”
This amounts to inviting trouble, Mittal said. “In many cases, non-standard chargers are used, making it more dangerous as they heat up very badly. This could be dangerous as they can burn and spark a fire.”
He added: “Passengers can often be seen watching movies on their laptops or tablets with the chargers plugged in. They even go to sleep with the gadgets under their blankets. That in itself is a dangerous habit as overheated chargers can start a fire.”
Since charging can be done during the daytime, he said, no one would be inconvenienced if the points are switched off at night.
In the preliminary railway probe report that was released to the media, the commissioner for railway safety has said the “accident was most probably caused by… an act of negligence on the part of unidentified passenger(s) or person(s)”.
Mittal quoted a report by the Andhra Pradesh Forensic Science Laboratory that says it found no clear indications of any sabotage or explosions in the AC 3-tier coach that caught fire.
“But only the final report would tell us what exactly caused the fire,” he said.
As the inquiry commission was given six months’ time, the final report is expected only by June.
The preliminary probe says a burnt laptop was found on berth number 40 and a burnt charger near berth number 39. Of the protective devices on the coach, only the 40amp MCBs (master circuit breakers) meant to protect the supply to fans, lights and charging points were charred.
The high-rupture-capacity fuses, moulded case circuit breakers and miniature circuit breakers that largely safeguard the other power lines were found intact.
“While this may not be evidence enough, the final report will give a conclusive version on this charger’s role as well,” Mittal said.
In other “immediate recommendations”, the preliminary report has asked the railways to do away with the curtains in AC coaches’ gangways as a way of reducing the presence of combustible materials, PTI reported.
The report said coaches should have smoke and carbon monoxide alarms to give timely warnings of fire or smouldering.
The blaze occurred when the train was between the Basampalli and Sri Satya Sai Prashanti Nilayam stations.
According to the post-mortem report, most of the victims had 100 per cent burns and died of asphyxia and neurological shock.