Football fans die in train `arson'

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The Independent Online
FOUR ITALIAN football fans were burnt to death when a fire broke out on a train transporting them home from a match.

The blaze, thought to have been started deliberately, erupted while the train was in a tunnel just short of its destination of Salerno, south of Naples. In a desperate attempt to escape the flames some of the fans shattered the train windows and hurled themselves out. Almost all the windows were broken when the train reached its destination. Twelve people have been taken to hospital with injuries or suffering from smoke intoxication.

The train was carrying 1,100 Salernitana supporters, escorted by 12 police officers. The team had drawn their last game of the season against Piacenza and had been relegated to the second division.

The fire started as the train was entering a 10km-long tunnel between Nocera Inferiore and Salerno.

In the confusion, the emergency brakes were applied, but for fear of remaining trapped inside the tunnel the driver proceeded slowly to his destination. On arrival, the third carriage was a smoking charred wreck. A policeman said the bodies were too badly burnt to be identified.

Passengers who jumped off the train emerged limping and dazed from the tunnel. Others had to be helped out by the emergency services.

The Italian State Railways (FS) said in a statement that it believed the fire may have been started by the passengers, and accounts from those on board seem to confirm this.

One teenager who had been on the train told the state television service, RAI, that he had seen people fleeing the train, saying they had seen who had started the blaze

The 450-mile journey home on Sunday night had been already marred by incidents of violence and vandalism and the train had stopped several times as a result of complaints.

At the station of Nocera Inferiore, Salernitana fans pulled out train seats and threw them on the tracks. They also hurled rocks and bottles at a stationary train, forcing those on board to shelter from the missiles in other carriages. The hooligans are also reported to have thrown out the fire extinguishers.

The FS, which has ordered an official inquiry, has denounced an alarming trend towards violence and arson by Italian football fans. The previous weekend a fire broke out on a train carrying Lazio fans just outside Florence. It is suspected that this fire was also deliberately lit by supporters after they had stopped the train by pulling the emergency handle. Damage to carriages chartered for away games this season has run into millions of dollars. "We have the tools to improve the situation in the stadiums and we have done so. Now, we need to look at how to better conditions outside the stadiums," said the Football League president, Franco Carraro.