As passengers travelling on the Mumbai-New Delhi Rajdhani, three of whose coaches caught fire near Ratlam, reached New Delhi railway station here on Monday afternoon, relief was almost palpable among their families and well-wishers. Fighting fatigue, they seemed relieved that they had survived what could have been a major tragedy.
According to train staff, the fire started in the pantry around 2 a.m., apparently due to a “short circuit,” and spread to adjoining coaches B-5, B-6 and B-7. No casualty was reported and one person was injured while jumping off the stationary train at Ratlam.
Uttam Nagar resident Nidhi Bajaj, who was returning to Delhi after vacationing in Mumbai, was travelling in coach B-7. “I was on seat 71, just next to the pantry. The fire spread rapidly, even as the train pulled to a stop. The staff use fire extinguishers, but the flames were out of control,” she said.
“I was sleeping in the pantry car when I realised there was smoke all around. Someone woke me up even as heat increased inside, and the smoke was so thick it was difficult to see,” said Pradeep, one of the staff. He said the staff acted quickly, waking up passengers in nearby coaches. “We asked the passengers to get out of the coaches first, without worrying about their luggage,” added Pradeep. All his possessions were destroyed in the fire.
People in other coaches were also alerted and extended all possible help to their fellow passengers. Railway employee and Ambala resident Mahinder Kumar Sharma and his wife were returning from a family function in Mumbai. They were travelling in coach B-3 when a train staffer informed them about the fire. “I helped my wife, who is a heart patient, to get out of the train carefully…We got out into the fields where the train had stopped and I helped another family with a baby come out comfortably. We managed to bring out our blankets and waited for help to arrive,” he said.