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Jharkhand Train Fire Suspect Detained

Train on FireIndian police say that they have detained a man on suspicion of being involved in the fire that burned two coaches of a train beyond recognition, in which seven people were killed – including two children and an Australian woman – and over were 12 injured. Indian Railways police official PK Srivastava says that detectives took the man in for questioning after they talked to other passengers on the train.

The fire on the train reportedly started around 2:30am as the Howarh-Dehradun Express travelled from Kokata to Dehradun in the north. Srivastava says that they can’t rule out sabotage, but he rejected suggestions that the incident could have been started by active Maoist guerrillas in the area.

A variety of other possible causes for the incident have been reported in local media, including an electrical malfunction in the heating system on the B1 coach, arson or a blast in a gas cylinder. Srivastava says that the passengers on the train have offered to give statements to investigators.

They told railway authorities they saw two passengers suspiciously moving around at about 2am. The pair had entered the bogie and put bags into an empty booth. One passenger claims to have seen smoke coming from the bags a few minutes later, and then flames were engulfing the bogie soon after. Witnesses also say that more people would have died if one of them hadn’t pulled the emergency alarm to stop the train.

The Australian that was killed in the tragedy has been identified as 21-year-old Kate Scanlon, a Monash University physiotherapy student originally from Tasmania who was taking a trip of a lifetime. She was travelling with three friends from school – Naomi Cappeli, Sophie Moore and Bronwyn Smithies, who were treated for serious burns – when she is believed to have suffocated to death.

Professor Stephanie Fahey, the deputy vice-chancellor of the university, says that counselling has been arranged for Scanlon’s professors and fellow students. It’s always upsetting to learn of such a tragedy, and they will support family and friends as best they can during this difficult time. Scanlon’s former school teacher, Sid Sidebottom, told reporters that the incident is devastating. He performed in a musical with one of the women, and they were lovely.

New Delhi’s Australian High Commission says it has been in touch with Cappeli, Moore and Smithies. Lara Giddings, the Tasmanian premier, was shocked about the news. She speaks for all Tasmanians in sympathising with the young women and their families.

Meanwhile, India was hit with two other rail incidents on Wednesday. A train was derailed in Kashmir, injuring more than 20 people. In Odisha, a passenger train crashed into a goods train, injuring four passengers. Both incidents are being investigated by officials.

 

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