A train crushed two motorized rickshaws on an unattended railway crossing in central Pakistan on Friday, killing seven schoolchildren and one of the rickshaw drivers, police and railway officials said.
According to police officer Javed Ahmed, the rickshaw drivers apparently misjudged the speed of the coming train due to heavy fog while attempting to cross the tracks in a suburban area near the town of Lodhran in eastern Punjab province. The train was heading to Karachi from the eastern city of Lahore.
Dr. Abdul Majid, a recue official, said another five children aged 5 to 8 were critically injured. He said the rickshaw driver was initially injured and later died at a local hospital. The injured children were moved to hospitals in the nearby town of Bahwalpur for better medical care.
Following an inspection of the crash site and a preliminary investigation, the assistant train driver and a railway worker responsible for the crossing were detained for questioning, said Asad Sarfaraz, a senior police officer. Police had earlier said the crossing was ungated.
“The railway worker responsible for manning the crossing was found missing from his post,” he said.
Railways minister Saad Rafiq ordered an immediate investigation and suspended the two railway workers, adding that further action would be taken if the inquiry shows they were negligent.
Pakistan has one of the world’s worst rail infrastructures, and has often seen fatal accidents as safety standards are not fully followed and disregard for traffic rules is routine.