Anantpur: Twenty-three people, including two children, were killed and 13 injured when a fire swept through an AC coach of the Bangalore-Nanded Express in the district in the wee hours today.
The fire broke out at 3:30 AM in the B1 coach packed with 64 passengers at Kothacheravu Railway Station.
"Rescue operations are underway. 23 persons including two children were charred to death in the accident,", District Collector, Anantapur, Lokesh Kumar told reporters.
A majority of the passengers were sleeping when the fire broke out.
SP of Guntakal Railway Police Janardhan said 13 people were injured in the mishap and have been shifted to various hospitals in Anantpur.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed shock and grief over the loss of lives in the mishap.
He also spoke to Railway Minister Mallikarjun Kharge and inquired about the rescue and relief work being carried out at the accident site.
Describing the incident as "tragic" and "most unfortunate", Kharge ordered an enquiry into the incident by Commissioner of Railway Safety.
The Railway Minister announced an ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakh to the next of kin of the deceased, Rs 1 lakh in case of grievous injuries and Rs 50,000 for simple injuries.
He has also asked senior railway officials such as Member Electrical and Director General Health to rush to the spot.
Chairman, Railway Board, Arunendra Kumar said the reason behind the accident is yet to be ascertained.
However, prima facie there could be two reasons - one is short circuit and the other presence of inflammable material, he said.
The magnitude of the accident suggests that short circuit was unlikely, he said.
Asked whether it could be inflammable material, he said it could be and the inquiry would go into it. MORE