A passenger train crashed into a stationary freight train in Pakistan yesterday, killing 16 people and injuring more than 80 under overturned carriages, police said, with the prime minister blaming ageing, poorly maintained rail infrastructure.
The Akbar Bugti Express travelling from Lahore to Quetta collided with a stationary freight train at the Walhar Railway Station in Sadiqabad tehsil of Punjab, official sources said.
The freight train was stationary on the loop line when the passenger train, instead of running on the main line, went on the wrong track.
Three to four bogies of the passenger train derailed while the engine of the passenger train was completely destroyed.
Eyewitnesses said the accident occurred around 4am when most of the passengers were sleeping.
Many passengers were trapped under the wreckage.
Rescue workers freed the wounded by cutting through the twisted metal of the carriages and dozens were taken to hospital, police said.
TV footage from the site showed the heavily damaged train engine and carriages, as emergency workers and local people used metal-cutting tools and heavy cranes.
Prime Minister Imran Khan issued a statement of condolence in which he blamed the infrastructure of Pakistan’s colonial-era railway network which has fallen into disrepair due to chronic under-investment and poor maintenance.
“Have asked Railways Minister to take emergency steps to counter decades of neglect of railway infrastructure and ensure safety standards,” he tweeted.
The cause of the crash is under investigation but Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed said human error is believed to be responsible.
“I have ordered an inquiry. Investigation will complete in two-three days,” he told Geo Television.
The minister also announced compensation for the dead and injured.
Ahmed said Rs1.5mn will be given as compensation to the families of those killed in the accident, and Rs500,000 will be given to those critically injured.
Rs200,000 will be given to those with minor injuries.
Local police chief Umer Salamat said that four members of a family – a father, mother and two sons – were among the dead.
The death toll may rise as some of the 84 injured were in critical condition at hospitals, police official Hafeez Bugti said.
Last month, at least three people were killed when a passenger train collided with a freight train at Makli Shah, near Hyderabad.
Jinnah Express passenger train, travelling from Karachi to Lahore, had collided with the stationary freight train near Latifabad area of Hyderabad, killing a driver, an assistant driver, and a guard.
The opposition parties have called for the resignation and arrest of Railways Minister Ahmed.
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said: “(Prime Minister) Imran Khan has given many examples of resignation over accidents. Why is he not asking for resignation from his own minister?”
He added: “Don’t know how many more lives will be lost because of Sheikh Rasheed’s romance with the ministry.”
The PPP leader further said Minister Ahmed and Prime Minister Khan are only doing point-scoring.
“The country is also running like the railways ministry. Sheikh Rasheed also destroyed the railways during Musharaff’s era,” Bilawal added.
Senior Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz leader Ahsan Iqbal said: “Imran Khan cannot ask for resignation, but he can give the ministry to a person who has the time to run it.”
He added that “the prime minister should discourage the trend of false performances”.
Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said it is worrying that there is an increase in the number of train accidents.
“The reason and motive behind the accident should be brought forward to determine the perpetrators,” the PML-N leader added.