3 killed as man pours petrol on passengers, sets them afire on Kerala train
The bodies of Sahramath, her aunt M Rehmat and M Noufeeq, a fish merchant, were recovered from the railway tracks
Three people, including a child, were killed and eight others received burn injuries after an unidentified person poured petrol on fellow passengers and set them afire on the Kannur Express in Kerala on Sunday night.
The bodies of Sahramath, her aunt M Rehmat and M Noufeeq, a fish merchant, were recovered from the railway tracks. Police suspect the three may have jumped out of the moving train in panic after they were set afire. All three received head injuries.
Doctors said the condition of the two of those injured was critical. An eye-witness said soon after the train was stopped, the suspect wearing a red shirt and jeans jumped out of it and fled. The train was stopped on a bridge on the Korapuzha river and it triggered more panic.
“It was utter confusion and people started running and crying for help. Initially, we thought he [the suspect] was just spraying water but soon we smelled petrol. Before we could react, he lit the fire,” said P Ratheesh, one of the passengers. He said some of the passengers warned others not to alight in panic as the train was struck on the bridge.
Another passenger said the suspect was loitering around the train before he started pouring petrol on co-passengers. “In seconds, he lit the fire using a lighter,” said the second passenger. He added the suspect also suffered burn injuries and that the incident occurred between Elathur and Koyilandi railway stations around 9.30pm when the train was moving at a high speed.
A police officer said they suspect it was a well-planned and executed criminal act. “The location on the bridge was chosen to inflict maximum damage. In Elathur, a big reservoir of fuel is also near the railway track. We are not ruling out a possible terror angle at this juncture,” said the police officer, who did not want to be named.
Police said they recovered a bag with a bottle of petrol, two mobile phones, a lunch box, and a pair of clothes. The last call from one of the phones was made on March 30.
Police released the sketch of the main suspect based on the description the witnesses provided. They said a major mishap was averted as the alert passengers pulled the alarm chain and stopped the train.
Reports in the local media said the suspect is from Noida in Uttar Pradesh but police were yet to confirm it. Police have registered a case including under the Explosive Substances Act and are likely to hand it over to the National Investigation Agency.
Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan called the incident shocking and said a special investigation team will be constituted and police chief Anil Kant will supervise the probe. “The state government will take necessary measures to ensure the safety of rail passengers. We have also asked the railway ministry to step up security at railway stations and on trains.”
Kant said they have got some clues and working on those leads.
In New Delhi, railway minister Ashwani Vaishnav said it was a serious incident and they have also started an investigation.
Officials said the railways have stepped up vigil at stations and on trains and that the ticket examiner on the Kannur Express told police that the suspect did not have a reserved ticket.