ISLAMABAD: More than 30 people were killed and at least 70 were injured on Sunday when eight coaches of the Hazara Express train en route from Karachi to Rawalpindi derailed near the Sarhari Railway Station in Nawabshah district.
Police, rescue officials ambulances reached the site upon receiving information of the accident while train operations on the track were immediately suspended.
Scores of villagers from nearby villages also reached the spot and started rescuing the stranded passengers. According to Rescue 1122, initially, 20 passengers were rescued and shifted to the Peoples Hospital Nawabshah.
“This is quite a big accident,” Railway Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique told reporters earlier in the day.
“There can be two reasons: first that it was a mechanical fault, or the fault was created — it might be sabotage. We will investigate it.”
Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah has confirmed that 30 people have been killed in the incident so far while 70 others were injured.
Sindh Minister for Information, Transport, and Mass Transit Sharjeel Inam Memon said that an emergency was imposed at the local hospital of Benazirabad district as soon as the information about the incident was received.
Memon said that the entire machinery of the Sindh government has been mobilised to the incident site, adding that the critically injured will be transported to Karachi.
The minister further stated that hospitals across all districts, including Sanghar and Nawabshah, have been put on alert.
Meanwhile, an official of the Pakistan Railways (PR) said that the train left Karachi at 8 am and the reasons for the accident were being probed.
On the other hand, a spokesperson of the PR in Karachi said that the intensity of the accident increased due to delayed application of brakes. At least eight to 10 bogies derailed, he added.
The affected bogies will be lifted off the track in a few hours using machines, he said, adding that trains departing from Karachi might face delays.
There were over 1,000 passengers on board.
Relief trains have departed from Kotri and Rohri stations and are headed to the site.
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.
At the accident site outside Nawabshah, 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.
The Pakistan Army and Pakistan Rangers also dispatched troops to the site on receiving the information.
They were sent on the directives of Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Asim Munir, according to a statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) office.
Additional troops have been summoned from Hyderabad and Sakrand while army aviation helicopters have also been sent to immediately shift patients with critical injuries for medical attention.
The military’s media wing informed that troops have been directed to reach the site of the accident with food supply.
They are to remain on the site, assisting with the rescue operation, till all of the injured persons are shifted to the hospital and those trapped under bogies are rescued.
The Hazara Express is a daily passenger train that leaves Karachi and takes around 33 hours to reach Havelian in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, some 1,600 kilometres north.
Accidents and derailments occur frequently on the country’s antiquated railway system, which has nearly 7,500 kilometres (4,600 miles) of track and carries more than 80 million passengers a year.
In June 2021 two trains collided near Daharki in Sindh, killing at least 65 people and injuring about 150 others.
In that accident, an express derailed onto the opposite track, and a second passenger train crashed into the wreckage roughly a minute later.
At least 75 passengers burnt to death in a fire aboard the Tezgam express train in October 2019, while a two-train collision at Ghotki killed more than 100 people in 2005.