Six people were killed and more than 150 injured when a passenger train collided with a freight train in Pakistan’s Punjab province early on Thursday, raising questions about the safety of the country’s ageing railway infrastructure.
Most of the passengers on the Karachi-bound Awam Express were returning home after the Eid holidays which ended a day earlier, officials said. The Awam Express, which originated in Peshawar, struck a stationary freight train at a stop near the southern Punjab city of Multan.
Most of the injured were taken to Multan’s Nishtar Hospital. Officials of the Edhi Ambulance service, a private rescue organisation, said some serious cases had been airlifted to Karachi.
There was chaos at the site of the accident as railway staff were attacked by angry passengers. Railway officials blamed the driver of the Awam Express for not stopping at a red signal ahead of the crash site.
TV news channels aired footage of injured people waiting to be transported to Multan. The footage also showed rescue officials working around crumpled and overturned bogies in the darkness.
Edhi staff said the government had initially made no arrangements to transport the dead and injured to nearby hospitals and this was done with the help of private volunteers.
News agencies later quoted an official of the rescue emergency service in Multan as saying that rescue operations had been completed. He said 40 ambulances and 200 rescuers from Lodhran, Muzaffargarh and Multan participated in the operations.
All rail traffic to southern Pakistan came to a halt because of the accident. Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif, the younger brother of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, ordered an inquiry into the accident.
Much of Pakistan’s railway network dates back to the British Raj but services have been affected by a lack of modern locomotives and infrastructure.