India train fire kills seven in Jharkhand

image captionThe cause of the fire is unclear

Seven people have been killed and at least 12 injured in a fire on a passenger train travelling in the Indian state of Jharkhand, police say.

Two coaches of the Doon Express train travelling to Dehradoon from Howrah caught fire early on Tuesday. The cause of the fire is still not clear.

One of the dead was an Australian woman travelling to carry out research at the Buddhist holy city of Bodh Gaya.

The incident happened when the train was passing through Giridih district.

Railway officials said rescue teams had evacuated most of the passengers.

A four-year-old girl was among the dead.

Another three Australian women, also researchers, are being treated for burns and three Russians were also reported hurt.

Heater defect?

Seven bodies were recovered from the two charred coaches, a senior police official told the BBC's Salman Ravi.

TV pictures showed two air-conditioned coaches of the train in flames.

One passenger told reporters that the fire started after "somebody switched off the air-conditioning and switched on the heater".

Railway officials said rescue teams had rushed to the site, separated the burning coaches from the rest of the train, and had managed to evacuate most of the passengers.

But reporters at the site told the BBC it took more than two hours for the rescue teams to reach the train. Most passengers said they had escaped the fire on their own.

Accidents are common on the state-owned Indian railways, an immense network connecting every corner of the country.

It operates 9,000 passenger trains and carries some 18 million passengers every day.

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