MULTAN, Pakistan (AP) — A train derailed in southern Pakistan on Sunday, killing 30 people and injuring more than 90 others as rescue operations completed by early evening, officials said.
Ten cars of a Rawalpindi-bound train derailed and some overturned, near the Pakistani town of Nawabshah, trapping many passengers, said senior railway officer Mahmoodur Rehman Lakho.
Local television showed rescue teams extracting women, children and elderly passengers from damaged and overturned cars. Some of the injured were lying on the ground crying for help while locals gave out water and food. AP photos showed derailed train cars sprawled across or near the tracks.
Senior police officer Abid Baloch said from the scene of the accident that the rescue operation was complete: dozens of the injured had been brought to safety and the last flipped car cleared. He said women and children were among the dead and injured.
Expressing grief over the loss of life, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif prayed during a political gathering in Punjab for the souls of the departed and for the quick recovery of those injured.
“We all pray, may Allah grant a place in heaven to those who passed away and I wish quick recovery for the injured,” he said.
Lakho, who is in charge of railways in the accident area, said rescue crews took injured passengers to the nearby People’s Hospital in Nawabshah. He said the ill-fated Hazara Express was on its way from Karachi to Rawalpindi when 10 cars went off the tracks near the Sarhari railway station off Nawabshah.
Ihtesham Ali lost his family members and was looking for them in the chaotic situation.
“Seven members of my family and 22 from my neighborhood were missing and so far we found only four of them, rest are still missing.”
Mohsin Sayal, another senior railway officer, said train traffic was suspended on the main railway line as repair trains were dispatched to the scene. Sayal said alternative travel arrangements and medical care would be made available for the train’s passengers.
All trains in both directions were held at the nearest stations till the tracks could be cleared, while all departures were delayed. Passengers at Karachi station complained that they were waiting in hope as railway authorities kept changing departure times.
Owais Iqbal, a Lahore bound passenger at Karachi railway station said: ”Our train was to depart at 5p.m. Now we have been told that it will leave at 8p.m. It may even get later. We are waiting. We are suffering because of the poor railway system.”
Minister for Railways Khwaja Saad Rafiq said the crash could be due to a mechanical fault or the result of sabotage. He said an investigation was underway.
He said that military and paramilitary troops along with rescue workers reached the scene and helped to rescue the trapped passengers. The most seriously injured passengers were transported to distant hospitals in military helicopters for better treatment.
Train crashes often happen on poorly maintained railways tracks in Pakistan, where colonial-era communications and signal systems haven’t been modernized and safety standards are poor.