BHUBANESWAR: A mysterious fire engulfed five coaches of three empty trains at Puri Railway Station triggering a wave of panic among the passengers and locals on Thursday afternoon.
Although no casualty or injury was reported, the incident left the travellers scared.
All the three trains were stationed at separate platforms and caught fire one after another in a gap of about 45 minutes clearly indicating that someone had played mischief.
The East Coast Railway (ECoR) rushed senior officials to the spot and ordered a high level inquiry into the incident suspecting it to be a sabotage.
While two persons were detained by the Railway Protection Force (RPF), the Puri railway yard was sealed off and dog-squads were employed to trace the persons responsible for the fire which could have been disastrous had passengers been on board the trains.
Two of the trains - 12816 New Delhi-Puri Nandankanan Express and 17480 Tirupati-Puri Express - had terminated their journey and waiting to go onto the washing lines. The third one 12838 Puri-Howrah Express was scheduled to leave Puri at 8 pm after routine maintenance and inspection.
The fire was detected at 4.30 pm in Nandankanan Express which was parked on platform no 4. It had reached the station at 4 pm. Fifteen minutes after its arrival, the Tirupati-Puri Express arrived at the station. The second train was stationed at platform no 2.
The ECoR sources said, two sleeper class coaches S-11 and S-12 of Nandankanan Express were damaged by the fire. While one coach was completely gutted, the other was partially damaged. Similarly, coaches S-2 and S-3 of Tirupati-Puri Express were damaged by the fire which was noticed at about 5.10 pm.
Later at 6.10 pm, fire was detected in the general class coach of Puri-Howrah Express, standing at platform no 6. It was scheduled to leave at 8 pm.
With the coaches up in smoke, the Fire Service was employed to extinguish the flames. DG (Fire Service and Home Guards) Binoy Kumar Behera said, the fire service unit at Puri was on the job immediately after the fire was reported. The on and off-duty employees of Khurda Road Division, Government Railway Police and RPF joined hands to control the flames.
By 6.45 pm, the fire could be brought under total control.
The fire affected the train traffic movement and at about 7.30 pm, the train service was normalised. The ECoR officials detached the damaged general class coach from Puri-Howrah Express to facilitate its onwards journey.
“All rakes of inbound trains will be inspected and locked before stabling as a precautionary measure. We have also mobilised additional force to Puri Railway Station,” Chief Security Commissioner, ECoR and IG, RPF Atul Pathak told this paper from Puri.
Divisional Railway Manager of Khurda Road Division SK Singh and Superintendent Railway Police, Cuttack Sanjay Kaushal were camping at the spot. Chief Public Relations Officer JP Mishra said, the high-level inquiry committee has been instructed by GM Rajiv Vishnoi to complete the probe at the earliest. “The incident has been viewed seriously and system audit will be put in place to prevent any recurrence,” he added.
Before Diwali, the ECoR authorities had launched a safety drive to prevent transportation of fire crackers and inflammable articles.
In a similar incident in 2000, a mysterious fire at Nizamuddin Railway Station of Old Delhi had left a dozen coaches gutted. The person behind the fire is yet to be arrested.