Pakistan: At least 74 people killed after three coaches of a train catch fire in Rahim Yar Khan
Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid said the fire broke out on Tezgam Express while passengers were preparing breakfast.
At least 74 people were killed on Thursday and 44 injured after three bogies of a train caught fire near Liaqatpur city in the district of Rahim Yar Khan in Pakistan, AFP reported. The train was on its way from Karachi to Rawalpindi.
Victims, many of whom have not yet been identified, were moved to DHQ Hospital in Liaqatpur. A few of those injured were taken to Victoria Hospital in Bahawalpur due to their severe injuries. Muhammad Nadeem Zia, a medical superintendent at the hospital in Liaquatpur, told AFP that some of the passengers died because they leaped off the train and suffered head injuries.
The fire was extinguished by afternoon and rescue teams led by District Deputy Commissioner Jamil Ahmed carried out a cooling and search operation. Army soldiers, including doctors and paramedics, were deployed to assist rescue teams in the operation, the Inter-Services Public Relations said in a statement. The Pakistan Army also dispatched a helicopter from Multan, some 190 km away.
The deputy commissioner said that 207 people were in the three bogies out of the total 933 travellers, Samaa reported. Two economy class and one business class bogies were damaged in the fire, a railway official said, adding that the two economy class carriages were booked by a man identified as Ameer Hassan. The official added that most of the passengers in those two bogeys were from the city of Hyderabad in the Sindh province of Pakistan.
According to Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid, the fire broke out on Tezgam Express while passengers were preparing breakfast. Many people saved their lives by jumping off the train, the minister added. “Two cooking stoves blew up,” Rashid told Geo News. “They were cooking, they had [cooking] oil which added fuel to fire.”
Railway official Nabila Aslam claimed that the passengers may have hidden a gas cylinder “in their clothes” when they boarded the train as it was strictly against the rules to carry one.
The passengers were travelling to attend the annual Tablighi Ijtema, one of Pakistan’s biggest religious gatherings. Ali Nawaz, a senior Pakistan Railways official, said the majority of those killed had been from Sindh province.
Rashid later told reporters that it had been a “mistake” to allow gas cylinders on board the train. He added that it has been a tradition for authorities to allow people travelling to the festival to carry gas cylinders. He said it will not be permitted in future.
Rashid said that a compensation of Rs 1.5 million (6.9 lakh INR) will be paid to the kin of the deceased, while Rs 5 lakh (2.28 lakh INR) will be provided to the injured, Dawn reported.
Pakistan Railways Chief Executive Officer Aijaz Ahmad said the train schedule would not be affected by this incident. Prime Minister Imran Khan extended his condolences to the victims’ families, and directed authorities to provide the best medical treatment to the injured, reported Radio Pak.
Khan also ordered an immediate investigation into the incident that he said should be “completed on an urgent basis”. Pakistani President Dr Arif Alvi also grieved the loss of lives in the incident. “President Dr Arif Alvi expressed profound grief on the loss of precious lives in the tragic blast caused by gas cylinder in Tezgam train in Rahimyar Khan today,” the president’s office tweeted. “He prayed for the departed souls and the bereaved families and wished [a] speedy recovery to the injured.”
The country’s Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari offered her prayers and condolences to the families of the victims. “A tragedy that could have been avoided but ever since I can recall while travelling by train no baggage check or restrictions enforced,” she tweeted. “Tragic.”