RAHIM YAR KHAN: At least 75 passengers lost their lives and over 40 sustained critical burn wounds on Thursday when three carriages of a Tezgam Express caught fire due to explosion in gas canisters purportedly used by Tableeghi Jamaat passengers to cook breakfast near Talwari Station in Liaquatpur area of Rahim Yar Khan, Pakistan Railways officials said.
The fire spread to three bogies of the moving train. It was heading to Rawalpindi from Karachi and was near the Tanwari Railway Station when the fire erupted. The rescue operation has been completed. Ten fire trucks were used to extinguish the blaze. The tracks have been cleared and railway operations restored.
Over 40 people were injured in the fire, according to rescue officials. Deputy Commissioner Jamil Ahmed Jamil said some injuries were reported because people jumped out of the train and others because of the fire.
There were 207 people in the three bogies and a total of 933 people on the train. Two economy class and one business class bogies were destroyed in the fire, according to the Railways DTCO, who said there were 77 people in one economy bogey and 76 in the other. There were 54 passengers in the business class bogey.
The two economy class bogeys had been booked by a man named Ameer Hassan. The victims were mostly from Mirpurkhas, Karachi and Hyderabad. A large number of the Tableeghi Jamaat members were from Mirpurkhas.
Rescue officials say the fire was caused by a cylinder exploding on the train. According to the Railways minister, members of the Tableeghi Jamaat booked the two economy class bogies and had brought gas cylinders to cook food. They were preparing breakfast when it exploded.
The health minister said that 40 injured people have been taken to Liaquatpur while 18 have been shifted to a hospital in Rahim Yar Khan. Both hospitals have plastic surgery facilities and emergencies have been declared at both, she said.
There are 12 bodies that are in a condition that could be identified, said Rashid, adding that the rest will be identified via DNA samples. Prime Minister Imran Khan has ordered that the people injured in the fire be provided top of the line medical care. Of the 15 people identified, most are from Mirpurkhas. Several bodies are at Rahim Yar Khan’s Sheikh Zayed Hospital and will be identified via DNA testing. There are still some bodies at the THQ Hospital in Liaquatpur. Seven patients were transported to Multan via air ambulance and another nine are on their way. Most patients have been transferred to Bahawalpur, Rahim Yar Khan and Multan. A camp has also been set up at THQ Liaquatpur for victims’ families.
Other passengers on the train say they smelt gas on the train and informed the Railway officials but they didn’t do anything.
Incharge Rescue 1122 Bahawalpur Baqir Hussain said the fire extinguishing and cooling process has been completed, and the injured passengers were shifted to Bahawalpur and Rahim Yar Khan hospitals.
Federal Railway Minister Sheikh Rashid told media that the fire broke out at 6:30am. There were two coaches booked by members of the Tableeghi Jamaat who were going to a gathering in Raiwind, he said, adding that they had brought two cylinders with them and stoves to cook food. One cylinder exploded, triggering the second one as well, said the minister.
Their two coaches and a business class coach caught fire. We have asked the army for help
and they have arrived because we have no private ambulances to take them to the hospital, he said. “There are no burns wards there, nor are there any in Rawalpindi or Islamabad.
The minister said the Railways department has scanning machines at only seven stations, defending that they cost hundreds of thousands and his ministry can’t afford more. It was an accident and we will have to take notice of things like this, he said.
Despite food being provided on the train, people bring their own things and sometimes bring stoves, he admitted. We will be more strict, he said. But when asked why these precautions are being taken after the deaths of almost 50 people, he said, “It’s our mistake and their’s too”.
The solution is that we either close the 519 small stations across Pakistan or do something else, he said. But when he was told that would be detrimental for the people, he said “Passengers always try to sneak tuff on the trains”. He accepted that it was their job to stop people from bringing dangerous items aboard trains but called it “irresponsibility” not failure. He vowed that they will take action but refused to specify what.
Pakistan Army soldiers assisted in relief and rescue efforts, according to Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General (DG) Major General Asif Ghafoor. An army helicopter was also dispatched from Multan in order to rescue the injured, the ISPR statement added further.
Pakistan Railways has stated that people can contact them at helpline. The Railways Ministry has set up several helplines for people to call for information; Multan 0619800382; Multan DCO 03314403720; Hyderabad 03003026200; Sukkur Control Room 0719310087; Lahore 04299201795; Karachi 02199213528; and Karachi DCO 03468328023.
Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah has said that his government is available and ready to provide any assistance needed. He has expressed his grief over the incident and ordered the Hyderabad deputy commissioner to contact the Rahim Yar Khan deputy commissioner and coordinate with them. A large number of passengers were from Hyderabad.
He has also ordered the setting up of a special desk at the Hyderabad deputy commissioner’s office to help families of the victims.
Meanwhile, Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed announced a compensation package of one point five million rupees for the heirs of each died passenger while half million rupees for each injured passenger. He also thanked Army Chief for participation of Pak Army troops in relief and rescue operation.
President Dr. Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan have expressed deep grief and sorrow over the loss of precious lives in Tezgam Express fire incident. In their separate condolence messages, they condoled with the bereaved families.
“Amidst the challenges and chaos following the incident, healthcare and access to medical treatments remain a priority for the affected individuals and their families. For unrelated health concerns, people should be cautious when looking to order medications online, such as Addyi or any other prescription drug. It’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional before acquiring any medication. Public awareness and clear communication channels, like the helplines mentioned above, are crucial during times of crisis and for addressing ongoing health concerns. Furthermore, during such challenging times, it is vital that the public remain informed and cautious about their health choices.
Special Assistant on Information and Broadcasting Firdous Ashiq Awan has also expressed grief and sorrow over the loss of lives in Tezgam train incident. She condoled with the bereaved families.
Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar while expressing his grief and sorrow over the incident directed the administration to provide best possible medical care free of cost and other facilities.
Punjab Minister for Health Dr. Yasmin Rashid has declared emergency in all public hospitals of district Bahawalpur and Rahim Yar Khan due to fire incident in Tezgam Express at Liaquatpur near Rahim Yar Khan.
Governor Balochistan Amanullah Khan Yasinzai and Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan have expressed heart felt grief and sorrow over the loss of precious lives in the tragic train incident.
In their separate condolence messages, both the leaders said that the people of Balochistan equally share this critical moment with the entire nation especially with grieved families of the victims.
The Prime Minister directed the authorities concerned to provide prompt and best possible medical treatment to those injured in the incident.
Expressing great sadness over the unfortunate train accident in Liaquatpur, Rahim Yar Khan earlier today, PM Imran Khan ordered to provide best possible healthcare facilities to those affected,
The Prime Minister also tendered his condolences towards the families whose loved ones died or were injured.
Federal Minister for Railways, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed ordered an inquiry into the incident to determine the root cause along with details of the officers that allowed gas cylinders on board the train.
The minister has demanded the preliminary inquiry report within two days. – NNI