At least nine passengers were killed when a fire broke out inside three sleeper coaches on the Bandra-Dehradun Express train in Thane district in the western Indian state of Maharashtra.

Western Railways spokesman Sunil Singh said the fire broke out just after 2:30am local time and spread to three of the train's coaches before the train was stopped and the fire extinguished.

Rescue workers and fire-fighting teams were rushed to Gholvad Railway Station, 145km from Mumbai, India’s financial capital, where the three coaches charred by flames were brought in.

Six coaches have been detached and sent to Gholwad station with the remaining passengers.

Authorities are trying to determine what caused the fire to start a couple hours after it left Mumbai on its 48-hour journey to the Himalayan town of Dehradun.

The tragedy happened less than two weeks after 26 people were killed in another train fire in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

Burned in blaze

The three coaches have been completely burned in the blaze. Four men and one woman, who died in the fire, have been identified.

The fire was noticed by a level-crossing gateman on the moving train who alerted the guard, reports said.

Senior railway officials have hastened to the site to supervise relief work.

The federal Railway Minister Mallikarjun Kharge announced compensation of Rs 5 lakh ($ 8,025) to the families of the dead.

An inquiry into the incident has been ordered by the Railway Board of India to ascertain the origin of the accident.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies