NEW DELHI - Fire raced through an Indian train carriage packed with sleeping passengers on Saturday, killing at least 26 people, and forcing terrified passengers to smash windows in a frantic bid to escape.
Some passengers were able to break the train's toilet cabin windows, but other victims were overcome by the thick, swirling smoke and bodies were found heaped at the windows and doors.
"We woke up to the screams of 'fire, fire!'. Everybody was screaming," one survivor, identified as Patil, told The Press Trust of India news agency.
Another survivor, Sharad, recalled: "We were all asleep. All of a sudden, we all woke up to a burning sensation."
"There was chaos. We realised the bogie (carriage) was burning," Sharad said, adding he broke the glass pane of a toilet cabin enabling three people to escape.
"But I could not save my wife and maternal uncle," he said in tears.
Rescue officials said many bodies were charred beyond recognition and would have to undergo DNA tests to determine their identity.
"Rescue teams have so far recovered 26 bodies from the three-tier coach of the train while five of the eight injured have been admitted to hospital for emergency treatment," South Western Railway spokesman S. Biswas told AFP.
Two of the dead were children, officials said.
Forensic teams were on their way to the train site to collect body samples for analysis.
Prime Minister Manmohan Sigh expressed "shock and grief at the loss of life in the train accident in Andhra Pradesh" in a statement on his official Twitter account.
The carriage was gutted by the inferno and was a mass of twisted metal and melted plastic seats. Adjacent coaches also bore scorch marks, testifying to the ferocity of the fire.