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The death toll is expected to rise to close to 50 after a sleeping car caught fire on a moving train headed to Chennai, India, last night. At least 28 people are confirmed dead so far, but rescue workers continue to pull bodies from the burned-out carriage that caught fire around 4:30 a.m. local time. The train continued moving through stations while burning, as most passengers were asleep at time of the accident.

Meanwhile, in northern India a massive electricity failure knocked out power for almost one-third of the entire nation, including the capital of New Delhi. More than 300 million people (almost the entire population of the United States) went without electricity for more than six hours in sweltering heat, as trains, subways, traffic lights and other public services were brought to a standstill. 

Both incidents underscored two of the major obstacles to India's growth as a world power. Railways continue to be the primary mode of long-distance travel, but are still regularly hit with serious and fatal accidents. Just this May, there was a collision that killed 25 people near Bangalore and derailments and other dangerous incidents are common. The nation's power grid also regularly buckles under the weight of the country's explosive growth. Minor outages are frequent and widespread and the grid usually runs on a deficit during peak hours. 

Power Minister Sushilkumar Shinde boasted that the power was restored quickly (more quickly than some major American power outages) and that by 2014, all the country's grids will be connected so that the might back each other up. Still, without reliable energy and transportation, India will struggle to keep up with China and other developing nations as they fight to take over the world economy.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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