Emergency window goes unused

A majority of the train passengers who travelled in Tamil Nadu Express were unaware of the emergency window option available in coaches S9 and S10 while coach S11 was burning. The passengers screamed, howled and rammed into each other during the fire and complained of suffocation, on their arrival at the Central railway station here.

“Though the villagers came in large numbers, they were unable to move near the burning coach. Passengers in S10 could not move to S9 due to the smoke,” said Mr Nishanth Shah, a passenger in S10, travelling from Bhopal to Chennai. The clueless people were afraid to jump out as it was dark and when the train came to a halt, I used the emergency window, Mr Shah adds.

“Most of us were asleep and all we heard was screaming by passengers and only when we got down from the train did we know that the train was on fire,” said shocked postal department staff Swaminathan from Kovilpatti head post office, who was returning from Delhi after attending a conference. “It is a rare accident and railway coaches are mostly fire-resistant. What caused the fire is to be analysed. Inflammable material possessed by a passenger could have triggered the accident,” opines Mr M.C. Narayanan, retired loco pilot.

Though it is time to study installing smoke alarms and sprinklers in Indian trains, it is not clear if they would be successful. To start with, railways should make the emergency windows more visible and instal latches that are easy to open. Women and aged persons find it difficult to open a latched door, he points out.

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