Minister says Pakistan Railways will investigate this big accident n President, PM expresses grief over deaths n Army troops along with helicopters launch relief and rescue operation.
NAWABSHAH/LAHORE - At least 30 people died and 72 others were injured after the Rawalpindi bound Hazara Express derailed near Sarhari Railway Station between Shahdadpur and Nawabshah on Sunday, Pakistan Railways said.
According to Railways and Aviation Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique, the accident occurred at 1:18pm and around 1,000 passengers were travelling in the Hazara Express. The minister told reporters in Lahore that the initial investigation showed that the train was travelling at a “reasonable” speed, adding that officials had reached the scene and an emergency was imposed in hospitals in Sukkur and Nawabshah.
“This is quite a big accident. There can be two reasons: first that it was a mechanical fault, or the fault was created — it might be a sabotage. We will investigate it,” he said.
Later in the day, the minister said that a coach of the train was yet to be removed, for which cranes had been moved. “We are trying that both tracks are cleared in the next few hours … train traffic on the up and down track is suspended for now, and a new schedule for trains will be announced shortly,” he said.
The minister said the “root cause” of the accident would have to be investigated. “The track is completely fit at the site and … the driver said in his statement that he was driving the train at a speed of 45-50 — this will have to be counter-checked.
Relief and rescue efforts are underway and people are being freed from the wreckage and two relief trains are on their way to the site, officials said. Railway Pakistan Army and Rangers launched relief and rescue operation on the special directives of Chief of Army Staff General Syed Asim Munir.
Army Aviation helicopters are also reaching the spot to rescue the injured people. Officials of Pakistan Army and Rangers are delivering food items at the accident site. The rescue operation will continue till the transfer of the last injured to the hospital.
The Hazara train commenced its journey from Karachi and was heading towards Havelian. Emergency was declared at Peoples Medical University (PMC) Hospital where doctors and paramedical staff were called on. Rescue 1122, Edhi ambulance and other services immediately rushed to the accident site and started shifting the killed and injured passengers. The local residents were the first to reach the incident site for rescue work.
The other trains on the Karachi and up the country routes were detained at different railway stations as traffic on up and down track was totally suspended. Divisional Superintendent Railway and Mayor Nawabshah Municipal Corporation rushed to the PMC Hospital.
Deputy Commissioner Shaheed Benazirabad Shaheryar Gul Memon appealed the citizens to generously donate blood for the victims of Hazara Express tragedy that occurred near Sarhari Railway Station in order to save precious lives. The blood can be donated by citizens at Thalassemia Center and Peoples Medical Hospital, he said.President Dr Arif Alvi Sunday expressed grief over the loss of lives in the accident of Hazara Express train.
He sympathised with the bereaved families and prayed for grant of patience to them.
He prayed for the departed souls and early recovery of the injured. Also, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif Sunday expressed grief and sorrow over the loss of precious lives in an accident of Hazara Express in Nawabshah. He prayed for the departed souls and ordered the administration to provide the best possible medical treatment to the injured. He sought a report from the railways authorities about the accident. He praised the efforts of personnel of Pakistan Railways, Rescue and Pakistan army for their timely help.
Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah after visiting Peoples Medical College Hospital in Benazirabad confirmed the death toll. 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.
The hospital officials said that at least 30 bodies were brought to the facility. “Of these 30 bodies, 21 handed over to the heirs and the remaining nine are in hospital. Two of these are remains of a body that have been kept in cold storage,” he said.
According to a list of the deceased, all of the bodies were identified except the remains kept in cold storage. Meanwhile, Shaheed Benazirabad District Health Officer Dr Asadullah Dahiri told reporters that at least 72 people were injured in the accident. Earlier, Pakistan Railways Sukkur Divisional Commercial Officer (DCO) Mohsin Siyal said that an unknown number of bogies had derailed in the incident.
“Some people are reporting that five bogies had derailed, some are saying eight have derailed and some are saying 10 have derailed,” he said. Footage aired on TV showed a large number of passengers gathered near the derailed bogies, some of which were laying on their sides.
At the accident site, dozens of cars, tractors, rickshaws and motorcycles could be seen parked on a road that runs alongside the track.
Volunteers were wading through a canal that separates the road from the railway line to help, and lifting the injured to get them assistance.
Some passenger compartments were upright but off the tracks, while others lay on their side, mangled steel from the undercarriage twisted and buckled. There were chaotic scenes at the Nawabshah Trauma Centre as ambulances and private cars ferried the injured for treatment. One man leapt from the back of an ambulance clutching a child, his clothes soaked in blood, while a woman moaned in pain as she was carried in on a stretcher.
“We don’t know what happened, we were just sitting inside,” said one dazed woman. The incident comes a day after the Allama Iqbal Express escaped a major accident when two of its bogies derailed near Padidan railway station in the wee hours of Saturday, resulting in the suspension of traffic on the affected railway track. However, no casualty was reported in the incident, said rescue officials.