By Our Staff Reporter
Ghotki-Sindh: Thirty five people have been killed while over hundred got injured as two trains collided early in the morning at Dharki, a city located in the Ghotki district of upper Sindh.
A number of passengers have been struck under the derailed bogies. Rescue operation started fours after the accident as heavy machinery could only make it to the site hours after the accident.
Officials said accident took place around 03:30am after a Millat Express train — headed from Karachi to Sargodha — derailed and fell across the “down track”. Despite repeated calls to the concerned authorities, rescue operation couldn’t start to clear the track until Sir Syed Express train coming from Rawalpindi hit the bogies at full speed.
It all happened near the Raiti railway station.
Information gathered by the correspondents of ‘Telegraph’ reveled that Millat Express train left Dharki station at 03:28am while officials received about its derailing at 03:43am.
In the meanwhile, Sir Syed Express train passed through Raiti at 03:38am. That’s why the officials didn’t stop it as they were not aware of what had happened to Millat Express.
Driver of the Sir Syed Express spotted the bogies of derailed train that were infringing the down track, he applied emergency brakes which didn’t work and train hit infringing coaches at 03:38am,” spokesperson of Pakistan railway told reporters after the accident.
As a result of this accident, six coaches of Millat Express were derailed and five coaches overturned, while two coaches of the Sir Syed Express train were derailed and three overturned, it added, stating that 31 people had been killed while more than 100 had been injured.
The PR spokesperson said a relief train had been dispatched from Rohri while officials, along with police and the local administration, were carrying out rescue efforts. He said that helpline centres have been set up for passengers in Karachi, Sukkur, Faisalabad and Rawalpindi.
He further said that some of the passengers from the Sir Syed Express train have been taken to the Sadiqabad railway station. “Railway traffic would be restored when tracks are cleared,” he added.
According to reports, the incident has paralysed railway traffic across the country.
One of the biggest ‘rescue operation’ in Pakistan Railway’s history has been launched at the site where well-trained teams of Pakistan Army are also taking part.Officials said a dozen passengers are believed to be trapped inside bogies and rescue teams were busy to help them come out.
Officials said death toll is likely to rise as one of the bogies is still stuck in the wreckage. “The Pakistan Railways relief train has not yet reached the spot from Rohri.”
Deputy Commissioner of Ghotki district Mr. Usman Abdullah said at least 30 people had been killed while 50 others had been injured in the incident. However, officials were facing difficulty in rescuing citizens as the bogies had overturned, he said, adding that the death toll could increase.
“13 to 14 bogies had derailed in the incident while six to eight were “completely destroyed”. Passengers trapped in them are still a challenge for rescue teams. District management is leaving no unturned to help the families of victim as well as the rescue teams,” Deputy Commissionaire of Ghotki told one of correspondent of Islamabad Telegraph.
He said that a relief train had departed from Rohri, adding that the local administration and rescue teams were present on the site of the accident. However, the official refused to give a timeframe for the rescue operation.
“We are also establishing a medical camp to provide medical aid to citizens,” he said.
Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed his grief following the incident.
“Shocked by the horrific train accident at Ghotki early this morning leaving 30 passengers dead. Have asked Railway Minister to reach site & ensure medical assistance to injured & support for families of the dead. Ordering comprehensive investigation into railway safety fault lines,” Imran khan tweeted.
Meanwhile, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah has taken notice of the incident and expressed grief over the lives lost. Speaking to the Sukkur Commissioner over the phone, he directed him to mobilise the district administration. “Machinery should be arranged to rescue passengers that are still stuck,” he said.
Arrangements should also be made at nearby hospitals to treat those that have been injured, he said. He also directed the official to arrange temporary accommodation and food for the passengers. “An information system should be set up so that citizens can get accurate information,” he said.
In a statement, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said that relief and rescue efforts were under way at the site of the collision.
Pakistan Army and Rangers troops have reached the site and are carrying out relief and rescue operation, the military’s media affairs wing said. Military doctors and paramedics, along with ambulances moved from Pannu Aqil, have also reached incident site, it added.
“Engineer resources moved to carry out necessary relief and rescue work. Army special Engineer Team Urban Search and Rescue being heli-lifted from Rawalpindi to incident site to speed up relief and rescue efforts,” the ISPR said.
Two helicopters are being flown from Multan to evacuate casualties and speedy relief measures, the statement said. “Relief goods [are] being prepared and will be dispatched shortly,” the ISPR said.
Major train accidents
In July 2020, at least 20 people were killed when the Shah Hussain Express train rammed into a coaster near Sheikhupura in Punjab.
Around 30 people were travelling on the coaster from Nankana Sahib to Peshawar, out of whom 13 males and seven females died in the accident. The deceased had included 19 Sikh pilgrims and the driver of the vehicle.
This incident came four months after a bus crossing an unmanned railway crossing near Rohri in Sindh was crushed by the Lahore-bound Pakistan Express train coming from Karachi on February 28, 2020, killing at least 19 people and leaving more than 30 injured.
The year 2019, meanwhile, proved to be one of the worst years for Pakistan Railways and its huge number of passengers as a number of accidents, including the horrible Tezgam fire tragedy in October, exposed wrong decision-making and incompetence allegedly on the part of the management while dealing with the department’s operations.
In a rare and one of the most horrifying tragedies in PR’s history, 74 passengers were killed, with 90 per cent of them burnt alive, and over 40 injured when three coaches of the Rawalpindi-bound Tezgam Express caught fire near Rahim Yar Khan on October 31, 2019.
The Tezgam incident followed after another accident on July 11, 2019, when the Quetta-bound Akbar Express crashed into the back of a goods train at Walhar railway station’s loop line, near Sadiqabad, leaving 21 passengers dead and 85 injured.