KARACHI, Aug 6 (PTI): At least 30 people were killed and nearly 100 others injured on Sunday when several compartments of an express train derailed in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province, in the latest rail disaster to hit the country.
The Hazara Express train travelling from Karachi to Rawalpindi derailed in Nawabshah district near the Sarhari Railway Station, 275 kilometers from the provincial capital Karachi.
Commissioner Benazirabad division Abbas Baloch said in a statement that at least 30 people died in the accident while passengers are still stranded in a bogie.
Sindh chief minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, who spoke to the media at People’s Medical College Hospital in Benazirabad — the district home to Nawabshah, confirmed the death toll, the Dawn newspaper reported.
He added that the injured could be shifted to Karachi if needed and directed the local administration and health officials to expedite relief and rescue efforts.
Federal railways minister Saad Rafiq earlier told the media that the number of casualties could rise as some of the injured were in critical after being hospitalised.
He said around 10 bogies had derailed and the cause of the accident is being investigated.
Pakistan Railways Sukkur Divisional Commercial Officer (DCO) Mohsin Siyal said 15 bodies were retrieved from the wreckage and the rescue work aided by the Pakistan Army was continuing.
Television channels showed the crash site with train compartments badly damaged near the station. They showed rescue workers and police trying to pull out people from the derailed compartments along with civilians who also joined the rescue work.
“Right now, the focus is on rescue work and recovering people from the derailed compartments,” Rehman said.
He said that the cause of the accident is being investigated.
The state-run Radio Pakistan reported that the Pakistan Army and Rangers have started relief and rescue activities at the accident site.
The rescue operation has been started on the special directives of Army chief General Asim Munir, it added.
Additional troops have been called in to assist the rescue operation. Army Aviation helicopters are also reaching the spot to rescue the injured people.
“The rescue operation of Pakistan Army will continue till the transfer of the last injured to the hospital and the rehabilitation of the people trapped at the accident site,” it said.
A spokesperson of the Pakistan Railways in Karachi said at least eight bogies derailed and the intensity of the accident increased due to delayed application of brakes.
The official said the affected bogies would be lifted off the track in a few hours using heavy machines and added that trains departing from Karachi might face delays.
Federal minister for railways and aviation Rafiq said the train, carrying over 1,000 passengers, was travelling at a reasonable speed, which initial investigations showed,
He said an emergency has been imposed in hospitals in Sukkur and Nawabshah.
“It was either a mechanical fault or it was developed,” he was quoted as saying by the Dawn newspaper.
Shaheed Benzirabad Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) Muhammad Younis Chandio termed the incident a “big accident”. However, the official refrained from confirming the number of casualties, the report said.
Foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, whose Pakistan Peoples’ Party is in power in the province, directed the Sindh government to provide immediate treatment to the passengers injured in the train accident and also called on PPP workers to participate in relief and rescue activities.
Railways accidents occur frequently in Pakistan due to outdated track maintenance systems, signal issues, technical equipment and old engines.
Sindh has seen the worst railway accidents with the worst train disaster taking place in 1990 near Sukkur when 307 people were killed.
Sunday’s accident came just a day after three coaches of Allama Iqbal Express — travelling from Karachi to Sialkot — derailed, but no one suffered injuries.
In April this year, seven people were killed when a fire broke out in a bogie of the Karachi Express travelling from Karachi to Lahore near Tando Masti Khan in the Khairpur district of the southern Sindh province.
On June 7, 2021, 32 people were killed and 64 injured after two express trains collided in Sindh’s Ghotki.
In February 2020, 19 people were killed when a train collided with a passenger bus near Sindh’s Rohri station.