Pakistan train crash toll rises as rescuers comb through wreckage

Railways officials say at least 63 people died in Monday’s train collision in a remote part of southern Sindh province.

Rescue workers at the scene following a train accident in Dharki, Sindh province [Waqar Hussein/EPA]
Rescue workers at the scene following a train accident in Dharki, Sindh province [Waqar Hussein/EPA]

Pakistan railways officials say at least 63 people died in Monday’s train collision in a remote part of southern Sindh province.

The officials on Tuesday issued two lists of the victims that included 12 who are as yet unidentified, AFP news agency reported, with some saying the toll could rise further.

The dead ranged from a months-old infant to a woman who was 81.

“We fear more people may die,” Usman Abdullah, deputy commissioner of Ghotki district, said on Tuesday.

More than 100 people were injured in the collision, which took place early on Monday morning near the town of Dharki in Ghotki, about 440km (273 miles) north of Pakistan’s largest city of Karachi.

“Some of the injured people are in a critical condition,” Abdullah said.

At dawn on Monday, the Millat Express train derailed and the Sir Syed Express train rammed into it minutes later, said Abdullah. The two trains were carrying more than 1,000 passengers.

The reason for the initial derailment is not yet clear.

“This is the most colossal accident I have seen in about 10 years of service,” railway engineer Jahan Zeb told AFP, his eyes puffy from lack of sleep.

Heavy machinery arrived to cut open some cars, and more than 15 hours after the crash, rescuers carefully removed wreckage as they looked for anyone who might still be trapped – though hopes were fading for survivors.

The Pakistani military deployed troops, engineers and helicopters to assist.

Security personnel carry an injured passenger to an army helicopter at the site of a train accident in Dharki [Shahid Saeed Mirza/AFP]

The operation to find survivors and bodies in the wreckage had been completed and the track will reopen today, said Syed Ijazul Hassan, a spokesman for the state-owned railway operator.

Deadly train accidents are common in Pakistan, where the tracks laid during the British colonial rule decades ago have rarely been upgraded.

It is not known what caused the Millat Express to jump its tracks, but Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid – a former railways minister – described that section of the line as “a shambles”, while current minister Azam Swati called it “really dangerous”.

The segment of the railway tracks where the crash took place was old and needed replacing, Habibur Rehman Gilani, chairman of Pakistan Railways, told Pakistan’s Geo News TV. He did not elaborate.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday expressed his deep sorrow over the tragedy and ordered investigations into “railways safety fault lines”.

In 1990, a packed passenger ploughed into a standing freight train in southern Pakistan, killing 210 people in the worst rail disaster in the nation’s history.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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