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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Smoking in toilet may have sparked Shatabdi fire: probe

The report says one passenger of the affected coach has given a written statement that the smoke detector alarm went off in the coach when the fire started.

Written by Avishek G Dastidar | New Delhi |
Updated: March 20, 2021 4:15:50 am
Shatabdi Express catches fire, Dehradun Shatabdi catches fire, Shatabdi Coach, Dehradun news, Indian express newsA fire breaks out in a coach of the Delhi-Dehradun Shatabdi Express near Kasro railway station in Dehradun district on Saturday. (Photo: PTI)

Passengers smoking in the train toilet, and burning cigarette butts thrown in the dustbin full of tissue/toilet paper, could have led to the fire that gutted a coach of a running Shatabdi Express train last week, according to the preliminary probe report submitted by a team of officers.

“There can be a chance as many passengers prefer to smoke. Any throwing of such burning butt can ignite fire…. As butts were found in lavatory dustbins of other coaches… It was a Western toilet in which larger quantity of toilet papers and tissues are used and thrown in the dustbin,” the report says.

Smoking is prohibited inside trains and anywhere in railway premises and is a punishable offence.

The report says one passenger of the affected coach has given a written statement that the smoke detector alarm went off in the coach when the fire started.

One coach of the New Delhi-Dehradun Shatabdi Special caught fire soon after crossing Raiwala in Uttarakhand in the afternoon on March 13. The train was stopped, the passengers taken off and the coach was detached before the train was sent on its way to Dehradun.

The preliminary report prepared by four Joint Secretary-level officers says the fire could have originated from the lavatory side, going by the visual inspection. “Interior was completely burnt.… the fire started from… left side lavatory, the maximum damage was found in the same location. Paint of the lavatory portion was completely burnt whereas at other places there was less damage. It has also been noticed the floor of lavatory got cracked due to high intensity heat,” the report says.

The report ruled out all known usual causes of fire in trains, like heat generated due to axle locking, brake binding, short circuit, fire crackers or other combustible material being carried by passengers or even sabotage.

To be doubly sure, the probe team simulated the incident in a coaching yard by throwing burning cigarette butts in a dustbin. “The dustbin caught fire and it is quite possible that the fire in said coach may have started by throwing of cigarettes in the dustbin which are generally filled with used tissue paper by passengers,” it says.

On Friday, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal took a review of the relevant officers and said passengers should be sensitised about the harm of smoking in trains. Director General Safety, Rahul Jain refused to comment.

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