NEW DELHI, Jan. 8 (Xinhua) -- Some nine people, including one woman, were charred to death in a major fire which broke out on an express train in the western Indian state of Maharashtra in the early hours of Wednesday, a senior police officer said.
"The fire broke out at 3 a.m. (local time) near Dahanu town in the state's Thane district on a compartment of the Bandra-Dehradun Express, and it soon engulfed two other coaches of the speeding train which was on its way to the northern state of Uttarakhand's capital Dehradun from Mumbai," said the police on condition of anonymity.
While seven people were charred to death on the spot, two others succumbed to their burn injuries in a local hospital where several others have also been admitted, the officer said, adding that the death toll may go up later in the day as some of those injured are said to be in a critical condition.
Local TV channels reported that most of the passengers were asleep when the incident happened, but a major disaster was averted as the blaze was noticed by a level-crossing gateman who had alerted the train's guard who in turn asked the driver to apply emergency brakes to stop the train immediately.
Indian Railways Minister Mallikarjun Kharge has announced a compensation of five lakh rupees (10,000 U.S. dollars) each to the families of those killed and one lakh rupees (2,000 U.S. dollars) to those seriously injured.
A probe has been ordered into the incident, Kharge told the media in the national capital.
India's state-owned railways is one of the world's largest train networks, operating 9,000 passenger trains which carry some 18 million passengers every day.
Thought it crisscrosses the country from north to south, its safety record is questionable. Some 26 people were killed after a fire broke out on a train in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh last month.