Train blaze kills at least 23
A fire engulfed two coaches of an express train in the south of the country early yesterday, killing at least 23 passengers, many of whom became trapped and suffocated after the doors failed to open, officials said. As the inferno and thick black smoke raced through the two cars at 3:45am, panicked passengers broke the windows and many saved themselves by jumping from the train. South Western Railways spokesman C.S. Gupta said 67 passengers were in the two cars when the fire broke out about 2km from Puttaparthi in Andhra Pradesh State. Gupta said the train was brought to a halt and the two coaches were delinked from the rest of the train to prevent the fire from spreading. Firefighters put out the blaze and retrieved at least 23 bodies, including two children. More than a dozen people were brought to hospitals with injuries sustained when they jumped from the coaches, a railway official said. Firefighters had to force the doors open and make their way through the coaches to reach the dead, the official told reporters. Many bodies were found near the jammed doors, he added. The train was traveling from Bangalore to Nanded in Maharashtra State. Minister of Railways Mallikarjun Kharge said preliminary reports indicated the fire was caused by an electrical short circuit.
Dozens hurt using fireworks
More than 160 people have been injured by fireworks as they prepared to welcome the new year, the government said yesterday. A 14-year-old boy who lost his right hand and an elderly man with a ruptured eyeball were among the worst injured so far, Assistant Secretary of Health Eric Tayag said. He tweeted that a five-year-old had also lost his right index finger. The nation of 100 million traditionally greets the New Year by making noise in the belief it will drive bad spirits away. Tayag said government hospitals tallied 164 firework injuries in the runup to New Year’s Eve, plus one case of a firecracker being swallowed. “Active fireworks users [are] up by 8 percent this year compared to 2012,” he said.
Officials jailed over assault
A court jailed four security officials for up to 11 years over the death of a watermelon vendor, Xinhua news agency reported, an incident that triggered a public outcry over perceived abuses of power by city patrols. Deng Zhengjia (鄧正加), 56, died after a fight with the security officials in Hunan Province in July. Deng and his wife had been selling watermelons at a scenic spot where such activity is apparently banned, according to Xinhua. A provincial court found the four men guilty of intentionally assaulting Deng and sentenced them to jail terms ranging from three-and-a-half to 11 years, the report said late on Friday. The men were members of the chengguan (城管), para-police agencies seen by many as thuggish. The incident led to a wave of online criticism and the dismissal of senior officials.
Bun shop gets Xi as diner
President Xi Jinping (習近平) paid an unexpected visit to a Beijing bun shop yesterday, where he lined up to order a lunch of stuffed buns, green vegetables and stewed pig livers and intestines. Such visits are rare for top leaders and although Xi has sought to portray himself as being in touch with the public, he has done so with scheduled visits. The manager of the Qing-feng Steamed Dumpling Shop said Xi and a small entourage arrived around noon without prior notification. She said Xi paid 21 yuan (US$3.40) for his lunch and that many diners took photographs with the president.