M A I N   N E W S

128 die as 3 trains collide in Pak
K.J.M. Varma

Islamabad, July 13
In a deadly pre-dawn pile-up, three passenger trains collided at a station in southern Pakistan today, killing at least 128 persons, most of them in their sleep, and injuring nearly 200 in the country’s worst rail accident in 15 years.

The accident occurred at around 4:30 a.m. (IST) at the Sarhad railway station near Ghotki, a small town some 600 km northeast of Karachi, after the driver of the Karachi Express train “misread” the signal and rammed into the rear of the stationary Quetta Express with full speed, catapulting carriages on the parallel track, railway officials said.

The tragedy became more gruesome when Tez Gam Express, going to Rawalpindi from Karachi, crashed into the heap of twisted coaches lying on its track.

The driver of Karachi Express, which was running at a speed of 120 km per hour, and his assistant were among those killed. Most casualties were from Tez Gam Express.

In all, 16 coaches were derailed — 12 from Tez Gam Express, three from Quetta Express and one from Karachi Express along with its engine.

State-run PTV said at least 128 persons were killed in the accident. Rescuers used electric cutters to extricate bodies and take out wounded from the mangled bogies.

The toll could rise as some mangled bogies were yet to be cut open to bring the dead or injured passengers out.

President Pervez Musharraf ruled out sabotage and blamed the crash on “carelessness” of the railway staff, which, he said, had to be established through an inquiry.

Terming the loss of lives in the accident as a national tragedy, he announced a compensation of Rs 1 lakh to the heirs of each of the dead and Rs 50,000 to those of injured.

The injured had been taken to hospitals in three nearby towns. A doctor at a hospital in Sukkur said about 12 persons there were in a critical condition. Some injured had lost limbs or suffered terrible head injuries.

Television channels showed bodies lying on the tracks with the luggages and other belongings of passengers scattered all over.

“I woke up to the huge bang and then fell down. I heard screams and there was smoke all over,” a passenger, who survived the accident, said.

Another witness said “there were bodies scattered all over with people crying and looking for their loved ones.”

Pakistan’s Minister of State for Railways, Isfaq Khakwani said the prima facie evidence pointed to the negligence of the driver of Karachi Express.

Khakhwani, who visited the accident site, told PTV that the signal at the Sarhad station worked well and it appeared to be a clear case of overshooting the red signal.

“One can understand the mechanical failure. There is very little one can do if the driver fails to follow the signal,” he said.

Quetta Express was travelling from Lahore to Quetta in Baluchistan when a technical problem forced it to stop at the station. — PTI


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