Fire safety officials advise railway authorities to make design changes in compartments, which will go a long way in averting accidents

The 26 passengers, burnt alive in the Bangalore-Nanded Express fire accident in Anantapur on Saturday, could have been saved, if the train compartments had enough space for passengers to exit quickly during an emergency, A. P. Fire Services Department officials feel.

Fire safety officials have advised the railway authorities to make design changes in compartments, which will go a long way in averting similar incidents.

“Make the existing doors in compartments user-friendly and remove side lower and upper berths to ensure free movement of passengers,” is the clear-cut suggestion from fire services officials.

Fire-fighters said that they found at least seven charred bodies at the entrance of the B1 air-conditioned compartment. “It was obvious that passengers had tried to exit the compartment, but due to the narrow passage, they got trapped and were burnt alive,” a fire-fighter says. “It’s difficult for passengers to move freely in the passageway due to the side lower and upper berths. One can imagine the plight of passengers when a fire breaks out as there is a rush to get out. It gets even more tough for AC compartments where there is a narrow collapsible door,” avers Regional Fire Officer (Eastern Region), D. Murali Mohan

Separate arrangements should be made for storing baggage instead of allowing passengers to store it beneath berths. Installation of smoke detectors in the compartments should be taken up. Railway engineers should design the coach doors in such a way that they could be opened effortlessly even by women and children during emergencies, he says.

Two constables - Chennakeshavulu and Vasu along with Home Guards, Anantha Reddy and Venkataramudu from Kothacheruvu police station, also said the doors were locked from inside.

“We used stones from the tracks to break the windows and get in. We tried to use tree branches to break windows but did not succeed and within few minutes, flames engulfed the coach. The passengers were clearly trapped and found it difficult to get out,” Chennakeshavulu recalls.

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