A fire in three sleeper coaches of the Dehradun Express killed nine people and injured at least five. The tragedy occurred at 2.35 am on Wednesday between Dahanu Road and Gholwad stations on the Mumbai-Surat section. This is the second fire accident in less than three weeks. On December 28, 2013, an air-conditioned coach of the Bangalore-Nanded Express had caught fire, killing 28.
The train was stopped at Gholwad and medical relief trains rushed from Valsad and Mumbai. Railway Minister Mallikarjun Kharge announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh each to the family of the dead and ordered an enquiry by the Commissioner, railway safety. The cause of the fire has not been immediately known.
After the Nanded blaze, Railway Board Chairman Arunendra Kumar had announced smoke detection systems would be introduced in trains. However, the promises remain unfulfilled. According to official data, fire accidents claim two per cent of total lives lost. However, the number has risen in the recent past. From four in 2011-12, the figure jumped to eight in 2012-13.
Recommendations of a safety review committee headed by Anil Kakodkar are yet to be implemented. In February 2012, after most trials for smoke detection systems on trains failed, the committee recommended flame detection systems to be installed in coaches.
The committee also recommended a switch-over from the ICF (Integral Coach Factory) coaches to the much safer LHB (Linke Holfmann Busch) coaches. This is likely to cost Rs 10,000 crore over the next five years.
Besides, the committee asked for an independent mechanism for safety regulation. It called for the creation of a statutory Railway Safety Authority, with power to have oversight on the operational mode of the railways.
In India, millions of passengers travel every day in trains without any fire safety system in place. The Comptroller and Auditor General said in a recent report that the Railway Safety Fund has been under-utilised for the past few years. In 2011-12, about Rs 670 crore lay in the fund.
Train Fire Accidents 2011
* 18 April 2011– Three coaches of the Mumbai-Delhi Rajdhani Express caught fire near Ratlam district in Madhya Pradesh. The train, carrying nearly 900 passengers caught fire while running between Bikramgarh Alot and Phuria stations in Kota division. The coaches were removed from the train and the fire was put out quickly. No passenger was harmed.
* 12 July 2011- New Delhi-Patna Rajdhani Express's coach caught fire near outskirts in New Delhi. Generator caused fire. No lives lost.
* 22 November 2011- Howrah-Dehradun express train caught fire- 7 burnt to death. It was around 2.30am when coach number B1 of the Dehradun-bound train caught fire. Later, the fire spread to coach B2. Commissioner of Rail Safety-Eastern Circle.
Train Fire Accidents 2012
* 30 July 2012- One of the coaches of the Chennai-bound Tamil Nadu Express (New Delhi - Chennai) caught fire early on 30 July morning, near Nellore in Andhra Pradesh. 32 people died and 25 others have been injured. Fire in sleeper coach. Attributed to shot circuit.
* 16 October 2012- A bogie of the Solapur-bound passenger train from Hyderabad caught fire during its halt at the station in Gulbarga. There were over 15 passengers in the bogie of the Falaknuma Passenger after it arrived at the station at 12:30 PM and caught fire, but six jumped to safety. 2 dead and 7 injured.
* 30 Nov 2012- At least two AC coaches of GT Express caught fire near Gwalior on Friday
Train Fire Accidents 2013
* March 29, 2013- Fire in AP Express, near Nagpur, no deaths
* 28 December 2013- An AC coach of the 16594 Bangalore City-Hazur Sahib Nanded express caught fire near Kothacheruvu in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh resulting in the death of at least 26 people and injuring 8 others. The incident took place early in the morning around 3:15 am. 54 passengers are expected to be on board in the B1 compartment of the train which was completely gutted in the fire.