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Families wait for bodies of loved ones in India train fire

Agence France-Presse
Some 20 charred bodies have so far been identified but only 8 of them have been handed over to relatives

TRAGIC. Fire raced through an Indian train carriage packed with sleeping passengers on Saturday, December 28, killing at least 26 people. Photo by AFP

NEW DELHI, India – Indian families faced an agonizing wait Sunday, December 29 for the bodies of their loved ones after a fire raced through a train carriage and claimed 26 lives.

The blaze swept through the packed carriage on Saturday while passengers were sleeping as the train was travelling from the southern city of Bangalore to the city of Nanded.

Some 20 charred bodies have so far been identified but only 8 of them have been handed over to relatives, an Indian Railways official, N.Ramesh, said at the scene at the tragedy.

DNA tests were being conducted on the bodies for formal identification, with all of those killed taken to a local hospital in Andhra Pradesh state, he told the Press Trust of India news agency.

“These tests take a minimum of 48 hours or more, depending upon doctors. We request the families of the deceased to come forward for (help with) identifying the bodies charred in the train mishap,” he said.

Railways Minister Mallikarjun Kharge has announced compensation of 500,000 rupees ($8,000) for the families of those killed and 50,000 rupees for passengers who were injured.

Kharge told AFP on Saturday that the blaze was believed to have been caused by an electrical fault.

India’s underfunded and accident-prone rail network, one of the world’s largest, is still the main form of long-distance travel in the huge country despite fierce competition from private airlines.

Some passengers were able to break the toilet windows of the train on Saturday, but other victims were overcome by the thick, swirling smoke. Bodies were found at the windows and doors, reports said.

The carriage was gutted by the inferno and was a mass of twisted metal and melted plastic seats. Adjacent coaches also bore scorch marks, testifying to the ferocity of the fire.

The coach caught fire in the pre-dawn hours as it travelled from the high-tech city of Bangalore to Nanded, 180 miles (300 kilometers) from the city of Hyderabad. –

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