Doors didn't open, say survivors

Nellore accident: Crowd in adjacent coach created stampede-like situation

For those who succeeded in escaping the blazing flames that engulfed coach S 11 of the Tamil Nadu Express, the fire was no less than balls of fury that gave them the nightmare of their lives.

Recounting the horror, Ramsudhakar from Vishakhapatnam, one of the survivors, said: “I was sleeping on berth number seven and woke up hearing the commotion. I saw the fire on the other end of the compartment. We tried to open the door but it didn’t open for a while. I was the first to jump out. Two passengers went inside to get their luggages but never returned.”

Passengers in the ill-fated coach mainly comprised travellers from Chennai, Vijaywada, Delhi and Warangal, who booked their tickets under the Tatkal scheme.
Sudhir, who boarded from Vijaywada, said he heard a “blast-like sound.” “The passengers from S 10 blocked the door as they were equally panicked, resulting in a stampede,” he recalled.  A software engineer, Y Sampath, who was travelling with his sister Y Ashwini, 25, is yet to find her. “I woke up hearing screams. All I could see was smoke,” he said.

It has been an equally harrowing experience for family of the survivors, as Jhansi Rao, wife of another survivor Sambasiva Rao from Chennai, presently admitted at the Nellore District Hospital with 80 per cent burns, said:  “My husband called me saying the bogie was burning. I rushed to Nellore immediately.”

Nellore District Collector B Sridhar said a gateman noticed the fire at around 4:22 am and informed the station master immediately. “A fire engine was summoned by 4:40 am to douse the flames at the Tamil Nadu Express, which runs non-stop between Vijaywada and Chennai, through Nellore. Rescue operations started after the S 11 and S 12 coaches were detached,” he said.  

Nellore legislator Anam Vivekananda Reddy, who visited the spot, said: “I saw the remains of a mother covering her infant. The pile of bodies near the door close to berth 72, indicated the suddenness of the accident.” Train services on the Nellore-Gudur section resumed at 8:30 am and trains on this section will run as per schedule, sources said.

Eye-witness accounts

“Look, the shrubs and plants along the railway track have been charred,” said Praveen, a local resident. The agony of the mishap loomed large over the site, as belching stench of the thick smoke, charred bodies and human feces around around the track testified to the horror that the victims and survivors went through. All that was left were a few half-burnt cushions, sandals, towels and water bottles. 

“We came out hearing noises after 4 am,” recalled an elderly woman who lives close to the railway track. “People were crying for help. However, rescue operation was hampered because it was night, besides, the doors of the coach were locked from inside.”

“Myself, and others who live nearby called the fire services, but it took nearly one hour for the fire fighters and the ambulances to come. The fire was raging for an hour. Timely relief could have significantly reduced the casualty figure,” she claimed.

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