Patna, India (ANTARA News/AFP) - Seven people including a four-year-old girl and an Australian woman died when a fire swept through an overnight train in eastern India early on Tuesday, officials said.

Four female researchers from Australia were travelling to the Buddhist holy city of Bodh Gaya. One died in the blaze and the three others were being treated for burns in hospital, rail divisional manager Sudhir Kumar told AFP.

"Seven persons were charred to death and more than 12 injured after the fire broke out in an air-conditioned coach and then spread to another coach," Kumar said, adding that one Australian survivor was in a critical condition.

The train was travelling from Kolkata to the northern town of Dehradun when it caught fire in Jharkhand state.

Police said the cause of the blaze was not known.

"Two officers from the Australian High Commission will travel to Kolkata on the next flight available to provide consular assistance to the three Australians, and to seek more information regarding the fourth Australian," a spokesman for the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) said, according to the Australian Associated Press.

Accidents are frequent on the state-owned Indian railways, still the main form of long-distance travel despite fierce competition from private airlines.

The network operates 9,000 passenger trains carrying some 18.5 million passengers every day. (*)

Editor: Kunto Wibisono
Copyright © ANTARA 2011