NEW DELHI (Reuters) - A fire on a train heading out of the Indian city of Mumbai killed nine people on Wednesday, officials said, underlining the railway system's poor safety record days after another fire killed 23 people.
The fire engulfed three coaches of the train that was headed to the northern city of Dehradun in the early hours, said Indian Railways spokesman Sharat Chandrayan.
A worker at a crossing alerted officials about the fire and the train was then stopped and the coaches detached. Railways Minister Mallikarjun Kharge had ordered an inquiry into the cause, Chandrayan said.
Four passengers were burned to death while the rest died of suffocation, said a senior Railway Protection Force officer who was at the scene.
"The coaches have been so badly damaged that I am not surprised by the death toll," said the security officer, who declined to be identified as he is not authorized to talk to media. "But thankfully there will be no more casualties."
Trains are the main means of travel for most people making long journeys in India and the network carries 18 million people a day. However, the railways have been plagued by low investment, a patchy safety record and frequent delays.
At least 23 people were killed on December 28 in a fire on a train that was on its way from the city of Bangalore to Nanded in the western state of Maharashtra.
Some people took to Twitter to vent their anger about the accidents.
"For a frequent train traveler like me, this is frightening stuff," Mumbai-based Dilip D'Souza tweeted.
Reporting by Krishna N Das; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Robert Birsel