Are our train coaches fire resistant?
Chennai: Another fire broke out on a moving train in the wee hours and it claimed several lives.
Families carried home charred unrecognizable bodies after painstaking identification process and mourned for the dead.
The injured took home the indelible scars. And the government announced solatium after usual headcount.
All this was after the ill-fated III AC coach of Bangalore-Nanded Express went ablaze near Anantpur in Andhra Pradesh last week.
Similar scenes were witnessed when S11 coach of Delhi bound Tamil Nadu Express went ablaze and killed over 35 passengers near Nellore in July last year.
Only the place and the coach have changed. Both incidents were followed by rhetoric popular among railway officials - production of fire retardant coaches with efficient emergency exits.
The incident has raised a plethora of queries. How did the entire coach reduce to ashes if the AC coach was built using fire retardant material?
Why did nearly 50 per cent of the passengers not make it out of the coach alive?
Was the emergency exit not efficient enough to help save maximum passengers?
Why did the AC coach attendant not alert passengers immediately after fire outbreak?
One would not have to travel all the way up to RDSO, Lucknow, R&D wing of Indian railways to find answers but a visit to IIT-Madras and Tiruchy Railway Division would do.
Railway sources revealed to DC that the main reason ICF awarded Rs 25 lakh each for two projects, production of coaches using fire retardant material and coaches with efficient emergency exits, to IIT was the emergency exits in the existing coaches were not effective and easy to operate.
The new exits studied by IIT experts would be operable only from inside.
A senior SR official revealed that Tiruchy railway division had designed a new “rope technology” for efficient evacuation of passengers during emergencies.
“If an additional Rs 500 invested on every coach could save at least one extra life during emergency why not try it out?” the senior official asked.
“In most train fires, passengers either die or go unconscious before fire spreads due to fumes released by burning of upholstery and wooden lining used in the coach walls,” another SR senior said adding that enough research should be done to prevent death due to asphyxiation as much as fire.