LUDHIANA, India, May 15 (Reuters) - Fire killed 38 people
in a packed passenger train in northern India on Thursday,
catching many people in their sleep, officials and rescue
workers said.
Authorities said they were not sure of the cause of the
fire but ruled out sabotage.
Witnesses said the train, travelling to the northern city
of Amritsar from Bombay, was overloaded and exits had been
blocked by luggage. Some people had tried to hide in the
bathroom to escape the fire but were suffocated.
"Thirty-eight people have died including 10 to 12
children," said Ludhiana district magistrate Anurag Agarwal.
He told Reuters there were a number of small bodies and
body parts charred beyond recognition, making it difficult for
rescue workers to establish the actual number of dead.
The train, on a 37-hour journey, had just left the northern
Indian city of Ludhiana and was travelling at about 90 km (56
miles) per hour when the fire started in one coach at 3.45 a.m.
(2215 GMT). It quickly spread to the two adjoining coaches.
It was India's worst train fire since 59 people died when a
suspected Muslim mob torched a train carrying Hindu pilgrims in
the western state of Gujarat last year, triggering bloody
Hindu-Muslim riots.
Authorities said Thursday's fire was an accident.
"There is no sabotage. I confirmed this from the guard and
the driver. They did not hear any explosions either," said L.R.
Thapar, chief operations manager of Northern Railways.
India has the world's second largest railway network after
the United States with almost 14,000 trains carrying over 13
million passengers a day. It has about 300 accidents a year.