The railway staff and passengers travelling in the Chennai-Alleppey Express were shaken up from their sleep by the sudden fire in the luggage van. Though they got their act together and tried to control the blaze, the fire extinguishers were not very effective.
Speaking to Express, Erode district fire officer T Madhiyazhagan said that the compartment had two fire extinguishers and both were used by the railway staff. But, they were not able to control the fire and had to call the fire tenders.
Luckily, the fire was controlled within half an hour but the salvage operation went on till 6 am. The luggage section had lot of magazines that caught fire easily. “We heard someone saying that the fire was first noticed underneath of the train. We suspect it was caused by an electric short circuit,” he said.
Erode Superintendent of police R Ponni visited the spot early in the morning and directed the police to extend due help in the operation.
Perundurai DSP Gunasekaran and Inspector Sekar said that it was sheer luck that the train was stopped at Perundurai and not in a remote area enabling the fire service personnel and police to easily reach the spot and attend to the rescue work. They added that the loss could run up to several lakhs.
Vinay, a Chartered Accountant from Chennai who was on his way to Alleppey to attend a conference, said that the pasengers did not notice the fire as it occurred early in the morning when they were sleeping. Only after the train halted did many of them wake up and notice the blaze.
Sethumadavan, an ambulance driver from Chennai who was in S9 compartment, close to the charred one, said that he was barely asleep when the passengers from the SLR compartment raised an alarm. He alerted others in his compartment.
Maimun, who was travelling to Palakkad with her son Masif Ali in the differently-abled section of the SLR compartment, was alerted by her son about the fire. She, in turn, alerted others and 17 persons in women’s section and jumped out of train once it stopped at Perundurai.