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regular-article-logo Thursday, 18 April 2024

Kerala: CM announces SIT formation to probe train fire incident that claimed three lives

Police suspect that the accused is a north Indian and believes the incident was pre-planned as he was carrying petrol in his bag

PTI Thiruvananthapuram, Kozhikode Published 03.04.23, 03:10 PM
Pinarayi Vijayan

Pinarayi Vijayan Facebook

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Monday said a Special Investigation Team (SIT) will be formed to probe the fire incident onboard a train, which led to the loss of three lives including an infant, the previous night in Kozhikode district of the state.

The accused man who set fire to the people inside one of the compartments of the Alappuzha-Kannur Executive Express on Sunday night is yet to be identified and no arrests have been made so far in the case.

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However, police suspect that the accused is a north Indian and that the incident was pre-planned as he was carrying petrol in a bottle in his bag.

A Railway Police officer said that besides them some other agencies were also looking into the matter to ascertain whether it has any terror links.

"No other details can be shared presently. The investigation is going on," the officer said. He also said a sketch of the accused based on the statement by one of the passengers has been released.

CM Vijayan, in a statement, said the police have been instructed to carry out a thorough investigation into the incident.

He said the police were actively trying to catch hold of the assailant and the probe was being supervised by State Police Chief Anil Kant.

The CM further said the state government will take strong measures to ensure the safety of rail passengers and the Ministry of Railways will be requested to take all possible steps in the matter of passenger safety.

Vijayan also condoled the death of the three persons -- a woman, her infant niece and a man -- who are believed to have fallen off the train or attempted to get down after seeing the fire.

He said it was sad and shocking to hear the loss of three lives, including that of a baby, and the burns suffered by the passengers.

Nine passengers suffered burns in the incident and are admitted in various hospitals in Kozhikode.

A case of murder has been lodged against the accused, police said earlier.

The bodies of a woman, an infant and a man, who went missing from the train after the fire, were recovered from the tracks near the Elathur railway station here, late on Sunday night.

Police believe they fell off the train or attempted to get down after seeing the fire. "A forensic team is inspecting the site," police said earlier.

It also said a bag believed to be that of the accused was recovered from the tracks and it contained a bottle of petrol.

"Besides that, there were no other clues in the bag. It is not believed to be an act of terror. There is no information or links regarding that presently," it said.

The incident occurred around 9.45 pm on Sunday, when the train reached the Korapuzha railway bridge here after crossing Kozhikode city.

Initially, it was believed that the incident was an outcome of an altercation between the accused and another passenger.

Subsequently, police and a passenger present in the compartment have said the accused did not have any altercation with anyone.

The accused poured an inflammable liquid, believed to be petrol, on the passengers and set them on fire resulting in burn injuries to nine persons, police said.

"None of the passengers said they had an altercation or argument with the accused," the Railway Police officer said.

One of the injured passengers, who suffered minor burns, told a TV channel that the man suddenly came without a word or sound and sprayed petrol on several persons and set fire to them.

"It was very unexpected. There were few people in the compartment. Everyone panicked and started running when he set fire to people," he said.

Ahammed Devarkovil, State Minister of Ports and an MLA from Kozhikode South constituency, told reporters that the incident was tragic and shocking.

He said that according to information received from police, the assailant is said to be around 25 years old.

"Police are trying to nab the accused with the help of CCTV footage," the minister said.

Former Leader of Opposition in the state assembly and senior Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala said there was a need to increase the security in trains and from now everyone should be checked before being permitted to board a train.

"It would be unfortunate if people cannot travel safely in trains. It is an unprecedented incident. The state and central governments should take up the issue seriously," he said.

Chennithala also claimed that the incident was an example of the ineffectiveness in the functioning of the Railway Police Force (RPF).

"The incident should open our eyes to the need for increased security in trains," he added.

Earlier in the day, Railway police said some of the injured had suffered 50 per cent burns, but their health condition was stable.

The bodies found on the tracks did not have any burns, it said.

The accused had escaped soon after the incident, while the injured were shifted to hospitals after passengers pulled the emergency chain.

When the train reached Kannur, a few passengers complained that a woman and a child were missing after the incident.

"A man, who was injured, kept looking for a woman and a child. We found footwear and a mobile phone of that woman," a passenger told the media at Kannur.

Soon after the news of the missing persons came out, the city police inspected the tracks and found three bodies, including the woman and the child and a middle-aged man.

"We have found CCTV visuals of the suspect. Investigation is on," a senior police official of the district had said.

Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Telegraph Online staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.

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