BAHAWALPUR/ISLAMABAD: At least 21 people were killed and 80 injured when two trains collided in a “horrible” accident near Sadiqabad, Rahim Yar Khan district early on Thursday, officials said. Women and children were among the casualties.
The incident took place when a passenger train coming from of Lahore rammed into a goods train that had stopped at a crossing, a senior government official said. “We fear the death toll will rise as rescue teams are still cutting (through) the wreckage,” a senior Pakistan Railways official told AFP.
TV footage from the site showed the heavily damaged train engine and carriages, as emergency workers and local people used metal-cutting tools and heavy cranes.
Earlier, local police officer Omar Salamat told Geo News that dozens were taken to nearby hospitals. Separately, Salamat told state media some of the injured who were admitted to Sheikh Zayed Hospital had succumbed to their injuries. He said the dead included four members of the same family.
The incident occurred at around 4.30am. Preliminary findings suggested either a railway operation systems fault or human error could be the cause of the “horrible” accident.
“Akbar Express Train which was on the main track suddenly went on a loop line track at Walhar Railway Station, while a goods train was already parked on the loop line track,” Salamat said. “Resultantly, Akbar Express struck the cargo train.”
He said 11 passengers including eight women and the driver of the locomotive were killed on immediately while over 80 others among them women and children were injured. The official said the condition of several wounded was very serious.
Sadiqabad police officer Hafiz-ur-Rehman Bugti, who was aiding rescue efforts, said the locomotive and four bogies were “completely destroyed”. Hydraulic cutters were brought and used to cut the damaged bogies to retrieve bodies and injured commuters.
Pakistan Army personnel also reached the site and participated in rescue and relief operation, he added. “Other organisations including Rahim Yar Khan District Police, Punjab Emergency Service Rescue 1122 and Civil Defence also took part in the operation,” he said.
Rahim Yar Khan Deputy Commissioner Jameel Ahmed Jameel said ambulances were called from all major hospitals of the district. “Emergency was declared at all major hospitals of Rahim Yar Khan,” he added.
Relief trains of Pakistan Railways reached the area and removed six bogies from the damaged train which were later attached with another locomotive and were sent to Quetta.Pakistan Railways officials believe there was human error behind the accident. “The change of signal might be the cause of going Akbar Express going from the main track to loop line track,” an official told state media. A high level team has been formed to investigate the incident.
Prime Minister Imran Khan directed the Railways Minister to take emergency measures to improve the decades-old infrastructure of railways to avert train accidents. Khan stressed the need to ensure safety standards of railways across the country. He also expressed deep grief over a number of casualties in train accident and directed provision of best possible medical treatment to the injured.Presidnet Arif Alvi also expressed his profound grief on the incident, as did the chief ministers of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, and Punjab.—News Desk/Agencies
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