Survivors recall the horror: There were screams, smoke

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Eyewitnesses who escaped with their lives from the horrific train fire tragedy, can never forget those panic-stricken moments. They recall how the tubelights burst with a loud, explosive sound before fire broke out in the S11 coach in the third bay. The investigation carried out by both Government Railway Police and Railway Protection Force tallied with the version given by injured passengers, confirming that the mishap was triggered by a “short circuit in the roof”.

Rain worsened the situation. All the windows and doors, including the aluminium window shutters, had been closed to keep the downpour at bay. So the billowing smoke trapped passengers inside. They couldn’t go out and most of them suffocated and fell unconscious after inhaling the smoke and later, tragically, were charred to death in the fire.

Software engineer C. Vijay Kumar, 23, who is employed at Cognizant in Chennai and hails from Lal Bazaar in the city, said, “I had booked my ticket from Warangal and boarded the train at Hyderabad on Sunday around 9.40 pm. The incident took place at around 4.15 am.” He escaped by jumping out of the train. He remembers, “I was on the upper berth 24 in S11 coach. Suddenly I heard the tubelight burst, and then I saw smoke. People were screaming for help and running. Antha Hadavidiga Gandaragol-maga Undi. (When I woke up it was all chaotic). I jumped out of the train.”

Another injured passenger G. Srinivasulu of Mancherial in Adilabad, who’s a software engineer at Netbase in Chennai, recalls those terrible moments. “I was on upper berth number 67. I had gone home for a week and was returning to work. When I saw the fire, since I was close to the door, I got down. People were screaming.”

D. Rekha and her nephew Anil, who were sleeping in berth numbers 5 and 8 too had a narrow escape. They are residents of Kolathoor in Chennai. Mr Anil said he noticed smoke in the compartment when he woke up. He felt breathless and jumped out of the coach. He said he returned to the coach with another passenger who had a torchlight. When he heard Rekha shouting for help, he rescued her.

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