30 die, 72 injured after train derails near Nawabshah

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.

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