Fire on Indian Express Train Kills Dozens

NEW DELHI — More than two dozen passengers, many of them headed home for the holidays, were killed early Saturday when an express train traveling through the center of India caught fire.

The fire started around 3:30 a.m. on a train moving through India’s southern tropical region, between Nanded and Bangalore, the heart of India’s burgeoning technology industry.

29india-_small Fire on Indian Express Train Kills Dozens

Twenty-six people died, and their bodies were charred beyond recognition, S. Senthil Kumar, the chief of police in nearby Anantapur, said by telephone. Seven other passengers were badly injured and were taken to nearby hospitals, Mr. Kumar said.

Most of the passengers in the compartment where the fire broke out were sleeping at the time, and an electrical short-circuit was suspected as the cause, according to local media reports.

India’s train system is the world’s most extensive, but fares are kept so low to accommodate the poor that the government has been unable to invest in repairs. Many trains are in terrible disrepair and many stations are decrepit.

An effort last year by a reformist railway chief to raise fares to pay for needed repairs was reversed immediately, and the official resigned after an outcry followed his announcement.