False alarm that a coach had caught fire triggers panic and some passengers jump into river

At least 15 passengers travelling on the Thiruvananthapuram-Guwahati Express train sustained injuries in a freak mishap reportedly caused by a false alarm that a coach had caught fire near here on Monday.

Eyewitness accounts said some passengers travelling on the footboard of different coaches that were packed to capacity jumped into the Tammileru river from the running train a few minutes before it reached the Eluru station from Thiruvananthapuram, in a desperate bid to save their lives following screams that a bogie was aflame.

Stampede in coach

A Railway Protection Force official said eight passengers were rushed to the government hospital here. One of them, identified as Manik Ali from Assam, suffered a head injury, while Atta Biswas from West Bengal suffered a fracture in his leg while the others were treated for minor injuries.

Jayaraj, the guard of the train, told The Hindu that a thick cloud of dust was caused when the belt that runs the dynamo came into contact with the ballast on either side of the rails. Some passengers mistook it for smoke, supposedly caused by a fire, leading to panic and a stampede inside the coaches.

Even as a passenger stopped the train by pulling the chain, some jumped into the river on the side of the track before the train came to a halt.

As the river was shallow, the injured persons walked ashore before being given medical aid.

K. Satyanarayana, Additional Superintendent of Police, advised the train crew to suspend it until a safety check was conducted by experts from the South Central Railway. Sambasiva Rao, the RPF Assistant Commissioner, said that a team of officials led by Divisional Railway Manager Pradeep Kumar was reaching the spot in a special train from Vijayawada, about 70 km away, to check the condition of the train. The train left three hours later after engineers made a thorough check.

The remaining injured were identified as Atta Biswas, Arun Das, Samal Mandal, Rajkiran, Ram Bikas, Wahid Ansari, Deepak, Ghyasuddin, Bishnu Vihar, Haruhaldar, Sankar Ray, Syed Ali, all from West Bengal, Gangabhavani from Chengalpattu, Niranjan Langulesa (Odhisa) and Manik Ali (Assam). They later left by the same train.