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58 killed as express train derails in Pak

The Karachi Express, packed with holiday travellers, was on its way to Lahore when 14 of its coaches went off the track near Mehrabpur.

world Updated: Dec 19, 2007 20:36 IST
Hamid Sheikh

A Pakistani express train packed with holiday travellers derailed on Wednesday killing 58 people and injuring more than 120, officials said.

The Karachi Express night train was on its way from the southern city to Lahore when most of its carriages came off the rails and rammed into each other near the town of Mehrabpur, officials said.

A senior railway official ruled out sabotage, saying a faulty track was believed to have caused the crash.

Rescue workers tried to reach people still trapped in two badly damaged carriages and officials said the toll of dead and injured could rise. Some passengers cried out from inside a damaged carriage.

"Please, get us out," one begged. Luggage, train wheels and other wreckage littered the scene in farm land about 300 km (200 miles) north of Karachi. Soldiers from a nearby army camp carried the wounded on stretchers and hundreds of onlookers gathered at the site.

"According to our update, there are 58 bodies and 122 wounded. Forty of them are in critical condition," said Anwar Kazmi, an official with the Edhi ambulance service. There were conflicting tolls, with some other officials giving a lower number of deaths. "We're removing wreckage, injured people and dead bodies are still trapped," senior railway official Mohammad Amin Khan said.

The train crashed at about 2.30 am (2130 GMT on Tuesday) and many of those on board were heading home for the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha on Friday.

Crash Cause Probed

Military and railway officials at the scene said they did not know the cause of the crash but the general manager of Pakistan's railway system, Asad Saeed, ruled out sabotage.

"There's a joint in the track which is welded and that has broken. It shrinks in winter. There are many forces on the track and sometimes this joint breaks," Saeed said.

One passenger reported hearing a loud rattling sound just before the crash. Another railway official said 14 of the train's 18 carriages had come off the rails and four of them were completely destroyed.

Announcements were made in nearby mosques asking people's help. "Initially there were no government or private rescuers. We did it on our own," said villager Mohammad Jamal. "We used lantern and torches to take people out."

Mohammad Iqbal, an injured passenger lying on track, said the train had suddenly begun rocking violently. "I don't know what happened. All of a sudden the train started jerking about and we fell down," Iqbal said. "It was all darkness. We were lying on the track for three to four hours in the dark."

About 130 people were killed in July 2005 when a crowded passenger train rammed into another at a station, also in Sindh province, and a third train hit the wreckage.

(Additional reporting by Faisal Aziz and Augustine Anthony; Editing by Alistair Scrutton and Sanjeev Miglani)