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Dozens die as blaze engulfs overnight train in India

A fire swept through a passenger train in India, killing dozens and injuring several more. NBCNews.com's Dara Brown reports.

Updated at 10:35 a.m. ET: HYDERABAD, India -- A fire swept through a train car packed with sleeping passengers in southern India on Monday, killing at least 47 people and sending panicked survivors rushing for the only clear exit once the train stopped, officials said.

Investigators found charred remains of victims still in their sleeping berths and were struggling to identify them.

A railway station worker noticed the burning coach as the overnight train from New Delhi to the southeastern city of Chennai passed through the town of Nellore at about 4 a.m. local time, official B. Sridhar said. Nellor is nearly 310 miles south of Hyderabad, the capital of Andhra Pradesh state.

Once the alarm was raised, the train was stopped and the passenger car detached from the rest of the train to prevent the blaze from spreading.

The Indian Railways is a vital national transportation grid for the country's 1.2 billion people, cramming 18 million people a day on to ageing trains.

But decades of low investment, a patchy safety record and frequent delays mean India has fallen far behind China in building a network fit for Asia's third-largest economy. 

Electrical short?
Passengers were evacuated once the train was halted.

"Since the fire had engulfed one door of the coach, people had to rush to the other end of the coach to exit," Sridhar told The Associated Press by telephone, speaking from the accident site.

NWS via AFP - Getty Images

Officials and rescue personnel trying to break into a burnt-out railway carriage after a fire ripped through a coach on a speeding express train near the town of Nellore in Andhra Pradesh, India on Monday.

He said the fire may have been caused by an electrical short circuit in the coach.

Massive India blackout leaves 300M without power

The blaze killed 47 people, said Anil Kumar, regional railway manager.

At least 28 other passengers were hospitalized with burns, Sridhar said, adding that at least two of the injured were in critical condition.


Railway workers and officials inspect the burnt coach of a passenger train at Nellore, India, on Monday.

Railway and medical workers were now trying to identify the dead, he said.

"This is a very difficult task, since some of the bodies are charred beyond recognition," Sridhar said, adding that officials are making preliminary identification based on the reservations chart from the train's records.

India has one of the world's largest train networks. Around 20 million people in India travel by train each day.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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