Saturday’s incident of fire in the coach of a Shatabdi Express just days after a Railway office in Kolkata caught fire shows that the fire safety measures in our railways are inefficient.
Fortunately, there were no casualties reported on Saturday. With more and more similar accidents, the Railways have decided to compile all its instructions on fire safety into system. As per the new proposal, the various Standard Operating Procedure (SOPs), coaches, buildings, stations, etc will come under a single protocol.
Officials said that prima facie the reason behind Saturday’s fire was short-circuit, or something to do with the coach’s electrical system. The exact cause behind the fire will only be revealed after a detailed probe into the matter.
At the same time, a Northern Railway spokesperson said that the coach had fire extinguishers. But the magnitude of the blaze was so big that it couldn’t be put out with them. “The seats and everything caught fire. Our men acted swiftly, stopped the train, isolated the coach, and evacuated the passengers. There were no injuries” the spokesperson said. He said fire alarm went off and that was how passengers and officials were alerted.
In recent years, the Railways has been using “fire retardant” materials for its furnishings in coaches. The material approved by its standards authority are found to slow down the spread of fire in a coach, but they are not fire-proof. The fire retardant materials are as per international norms set by the UIC (International Union of Railways).