The fire in the generator-cum-luggage coach of the Rajdhani Express on Tuesday afternoon could have led to a tragedy had the train been in motion, forensic officials said after inspecting the coach.
Railway officials echoed the forensic team’s view, saying that if the train had been moving the smoke could have travelled to other compartments through AC ducts, choking passengers.
“The railway authorities averted a tragedy by reacting immediately and putting out the fire on time,” said Debasish Saha, a member of the forensic team. The diesel stored in the coach for the generator did not catch fire, the team said.
In December 2011, smoke from a fire in the basement of Annexe 1 of AMRI Hospitals in Dhakuria had choked 91 people to death. The smoke spread across the building through AC ducts, cutting off oxygen supply.
“There could have been a repeat of the AMRI accident had the train been running,” said a forensic expert involved in the Rajdhani fire probe. All Rajdhani trains are centrally air-conditioned. The air-conditioner keeps running whenever the train is in motion.
Five forensic experts inspected the burnt coach at the Howrah station car shed for 90 minutes.
The generator-cum-luggage coach — stocked with inflammable items, like cigarettes, plastic products and clothes — had caught fire while the train was on platform 9, three minutes before its departure time (4.55pm). Many passengers jumped off the train, some carrying babies in their arms.
The fire was doused in 30 minutes and the train left Howrah at 7pm.