As the Samjhauta Express pulled into Attari, the last station on the Indian side, there was none of the usual bustle – just an eerie silence. Inside, the passengers sat in a daze – the deafening blast that ripped through their train several hours before was still ringing in their ears.
Just a few hours back, things had seemed fine The train was chugging along perfectly and the passengers were eating and chatting, most had tucked into their blankets. "All of us were sleeping when a mild knock awoke us. Soon I saw smoke engulfing our compartment. I woke up my father Shafeeq and mother Zeenat. We rushed towards the toilet and I punched the glass window with my hands and feet. By then, the time train stopped and I managed to come out and pull my parents out through that window pane," Mohammad Haroon from Lahore told HT.
The doors of the two bogies got jammed and passengers were hopelessly trapped inside, survivors say. "We pulled the stop chain and the train came to a halt after a few minutes. We rushed towards the burning coaches to save the passengers. They tried to unlock the doors, which were badly jammed, and by the time they were broken, many were burnt to death," says Usman Alai, a resident of Lahore.
Most of the passengers had lost their travel documents and luggage but were too traumatized to realize that. When Karachi-based Shabana realized something was wrong, she instinctively picked her child and ran out as soon as the train stopped. After she had run some distance, she realized that she had left behind her husband and two children. She wanted to run back, but couldn’t believe her luck when she saw her husband Shyam Mohammad and their two children beside her.
"By Allah’s grace, my family is lucky to have escape the fire. All those behind me were trapped," said Shyam as he and his family stood barefoot at the station.
Malik Shabir Ahmad of Karachi, who was traveling with seven of his family members, said he did not hear anything till the smoke choked him. "The fire could be because of a short circuit. The train continued to run for about seven minutes as the fire spread," he said
Sxty-year-old Bhuri of Merrut, who was going to meet a relative in Gujranwala, was lucky to have survived with a few burns. "While I was being pushed around in the coach, I never thought I would survive. I thank Allah for saving me. These burns are nothing… they will be fine in a couple of days. I will definitely try and visit my relatives at Gujjranwala another time," she said bravely.