Nine dead in Indian train fire near Mumbai: Official

MUMBAI (AFP) - A fire on an overnight train killed at least nine people on Wednesday with sleeping victims overcome by the flames and smoke as the blaze ripped through three carriages, a railways official said.

The disaster, which comes less than a fortnight after 26 people were killed in a similar fire tragedy, happened shortly after the train left Mumbai on a journey to the northern city of Dehradun.

"Nine people have died from the fire which spread to three coaches in the night. The fire broke out at about 2:30 am," said the press officer for Western Railways, Mr Sharat Chandrayan.

The blaze, the cause of which is not yet known, started when the train was in the Thane district neighbouring Mumbai.

"The gateman at a railway station informed the guard inside the train," Mr Chandrayan said.

Many passengers were able to escape from the blazing coaches by breaking open the back doors, a survivor, Mehul, told news channel CNN-IBN, but the nine victims, including a woman, died of suffocation.

"All the windows and doors were sealed shut and the compartments were packed with smoke. Some escaped but those who couldn't died because they couldn't breathe," Mehul told the channel.

Last month, a fire raced through a train carriage packed with sleeping passengers in the southeastern state of Andhra Pradesh, killing 26 people and forcing terrified passengers to smash windows in a frantic bid to escape.

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