Thirty-two people were killed Monday after a sleeper car of passenger train caught fire early Monday near Nellore, Indian officials said.
The express train was traveling to Chennai, capital of the southern state of Tamil Nadu, from neighboring Andhra Pradesh state when the fire erupted. The incident occurred between Nellore and Vedayapalem stations, and the train was halted when a passenger pulled the emergency stop chain while other passengers slept, officials said.
Emergency crew arrived from a nearby station and the fire was extinguished immediately, but the blaze had destroyed the coach, which was carrying 72 passengers, officials said.
A Nellore official, B. Sridhar, said 26 people were rescued from the coach, which was gutted, The Times of India reported.
"There was a short circuit near the toilet," Sridhar told The Times. "All the passengers were asleep when the fire broke out ... . People were not able to come out immediately."
The official said the fire spread so quickly that some passengers could not escape.
Railway officials said 25 people were injured.
Railway Minister Mukul Roy didn't exclude the possibility that the fire was caused by an explosion, Press Trust of India reported.
"I am not excluding anything. I got a call from the Divisional Railway Manager that there was a report of a blast. I don't want to dwell on it further since you will infer that I am trying to divert the cause of the mishap to another direction," Roy said before traveling to the accident site.
Asked if he suspected sabotage, Roy said, "I am not saying anything at this stage."
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