A fire broke out on an Israel Railways train about 400 meters from the central Israeli town of Shfayim just after 10 A.M. on Tuesday morning. All passengers managed to escape quickly, after breaking through the windows of the car and prying open the doors.
Five passengers were moderately hurt in the blaze, while another 110 or so sustained light injuries, including burns, smoke inhalation and cuts sustained from breaking glass. A number of other passengers were treated for shock.
Rescue workers reached the scene shortly after the fire began and helped evacuate the passengers still inside. Israel Railways said that the blaze started in the back engine, apparently due to a short electrical wire, and began crawling toward the cars. The train had been traveling south from Haifa at the time of the fire.
Firefighters managed to control the fire after it spread into a third car about an hour later. Rail traffic on the Tel Aviv-Haifa line has been temporarily halted.
An eyewitness told Haaretz that the train was packed with passengers when the fire broke out. "Suddenly we heard screaming that it was on fire," she said. "At first they said there were gunshots and every started panicking. People did not wait for the doors to open and some of them began busting open the windows of the car."
"We saw the fire creeping out of the back of the train. We didn't know what had happened," she added. "People simply ran outside in hysteria. For a moment we didn't know where we were, in this open area with nowhere to run. There were ditches on both sides and it took a few long minutes before the first rescue forces arrived."
Shlomo Birnbaum, a volunteer with the Ichud Hatzalah rescue organization, confirmed that no passengers were trapped. He said a number of windows had been broken in the search efforts but all evacuation efforts had succeeded. A Border Police officer on board even shot at the window in an attempt to break it open.
This is the first serious event to have occurred on Israel Railways since August, when seven members of a single family were killed when a train collided with a minibus near Kibbutz Gat in the south.
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