At least 40 people were killed and dozens injured yesterday when a packed Pakistani inter-city train plowed into another express that had derailed just minutes earlier, officials said.
Several people were still trapped in the mangled wreckage near Daharki, in a remote part of rural Sindh Province that it took rescue workers with specialist equipment hours to reach.
The double accident happened at about 3:30am when most of the 1,200 passengers aboard the two trains would have been dozing.
“We tumbled upon each other, but that was not so fatal,” said Akhtar Rajput, a passenger on the train that derailed. “Then another train hit us from nowhere, and that hit us harder. When I regained my senses, I saw passengers lying around me, some were trying to get out of the coach.”
The Millat Express was heading from Karachi to Sargodha when it derailed, spilling carriages onto the track carrying the Sir Syed Express from Rawalpindi in the opposite direction.
Pakistani Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry said that the incidents were just minutes apart.
“I was disoriented and trying to figure out what happened to us when the other train hit,” said Shahid, another passenger.
Daharki senior police officer Umar Tufail said that 40 people were killed and dozens injured.
“One coach is under the engine and we can see three bodies trapped inside,” Tufail said. “Two other bodies have been reported elsewhere, too, so we fear that the death toll will rise.”
A clip aired on a local TV channel showed medics giving an intravenous drip to a conscious passenger whose lower torso was trapped between crushed carriage benches.
Local farmers and villagers were the first at the site, with huge crowds gathering around the carnage and some clambering on top in an attempt to reach survivors.
The dead were laid out in rows on train seat benches and covered in traditional scarves.
The accident happened on a raised section of track surrounded by lush farmland.
Pakistani Minister for Interior Sheikh Rashid, a former minister of railways, said the track where the accident occurred was built in the 1880s, describing it as “a shambles.”
A senior police official said that he had warned authorities about the “dangerous condition” of the tracks and carriages.
The Pakistani army and paramilitary rangers from nearby bases were at the site helping with rescue efforts.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said that he was “shocked” by the accident and promised to hold a full inquiry.
Gul Mohammad, who works with the Edhi Foundation ambulance service that was helping move dead bodies away from the site, said communication problems were hindering the coordination of rescue efforts.
“I am talking to you as I stand on the rooftop of my ambulance for better signal,” he said.
Rail accidents are common in Pakistan, which inherited thousands of kilometers of track and trains from former colonial power Britain, but the network has seen decades of decline due to corruption, mismanagement and lack of investment.
More than 300 people were killed and 700 injured in 1990 when an overloaded 16-carriage inter-city train crashed into a stationary freight train near Sukkur, while at least 75 people died when a train caught fire while traveling from Karachi to Rawalpindi in October 2019.
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