Death toll in the trains collision near Ghotki in Sindh province early on Monday has risen to 50 with at least 70 injured, said local rescue authorities.
The Millat Express derailed and fell onto the track when the Sir Syed Express rammed into it in the early hours of Monday, railways officials said. They added that the collision took place between the Raiti and Obaro railway stations.
A rescue official said the operation to find passengers trapped inside the compartments is still continuing. It is believed that five to eight people are still inside, he added.
According to railway officials, about 1,100 passengers were on board the two trains, and arrangements were also being made to assist the survivors. A rescue operation with the help of the army is under way and the injured are being shifted to hospitals.
Talking to media, Ghotki SSP Umar Tufail expressed the fear that the toll could rise as rescue officials have been searching compressed compartments for survivors.
He said there were up to 25 people in one compartment that was yet to be accessed.
“The Millat Express train left Daharki station at 03:28am. Information was received at 03:43am that the train had derailed at 03:38am. Meanwhile, the Sir Syed Express train passed through Raiti at 03:38am. As the coaches of the derailed train were infringing the down track, the driver tried to apply emergency brakes but the locomotive hit the infringing coaches at 03:38am,” a PR statement said.
Meanwhile, driver Ejaz Ahmed of the Sir Syed Express told a news channel that it was dark outside. He applied emergency brakes but it was too late, he added.
He denied that he had fallen asleep on the wheel.
As a result of this accident, six coaches of Millat Express were derailed and five coaches overturned, while two coaches of the Sir Syed Express train were derailed and three overturned, the railway statement added.
According to Associated Press, cries for help pierced the night as survivors scrambled to get out and local villagers rushed to the scene to help. As daylight broke, up to 20 passengers remained trapped in the wreckage of the Millat Express and authorities were trying to arrange heavy machinery to rescue those still trapped, said Umar Tufail, a police chief in the district.
“The challenge for us is to quickly rescue those passengers who are still trapped in the wreckage,” Tufail said.
PASSENGER’S ACCOUNT: Mohammad Amin, who was travelling along with his brother by the Millat Express and suffered minor injuries, told a news agency from hospital that before the train left Karachi he saw railway mechanics working on one of the coaches.
That led them to believe there was something wrong with it, but they were reassured all was fine. The train car that was being worked on was the one that later derailed, Amin claimed.
On the other hand, Pakistan Railways Chairman Habib-ur-Rehman Gilani told a news channel that the segment of the track where accident took place was old and needed replacing. He did not elaborate.
Earlier, Azam Swati, minister for railways who also went to the scene of the crash, told The Associated Press that engineers and experts were trying to determine what caused the collision and that all aspects would be examined, including the possibility of sabotage.
The chief ministers of Punjab and Sindh have expressed their condolences on the loss of precious lives.
PM IMRAN SHOCKED: Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed shock at the loss of lives in the Ghotki train accident and ordered a “comprehensive investigation” into the incident.
The prime minister took to Twitter and instructed Railways Minister Azam Swati to visit the site and ensure medical assistance to the injured and support for the families of the dead.
ARMY DEPLOYED: Army and Rangers personnel have arrived at the crash site in Ghotki and are currently involved in relief activities, said the ISPR.
Military doctors and paramedics, with ambulances from Pannu Aqil, have also reached the crash site.
“Engineer resources have been moved to carry out necessary relief and rescue work,” said the military’s media wing.
“Army special Engineer Team Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) being air-lifted from Rawalpindi to the incident site to speed up relief and rescue efforts,” it added.
The ISPR said that two helicopters are being flown from Multan to evacuate the injured and carry out speedy relief measures. Relief goods are being prepared and will be dispatched shortly, added the ISPR.