SHEIKHUPURA, July 6: Fourteen members of an extended family were killed and three others critically injured when a speeding train hit a motorcycle rickshaw at an unmanned level-crossing near Khanpur village on Saturday.
According to Rescue 1122 and police personnel, the ill-fated family was going to attend Urs celebrations of Shah Sheen Bukhari when the Lahore-bound Karakoram Express hit the rickshaw.
Eyewitnesses said the cause of the accident was sheer negligence of the rickshaw driver because he tried to cross the level-crossing without taking into account the train’s speed.
Officials said at least two children were among the dead.
“Twelve people died on the spot. Four people with critical injuries were taken to hospital. Two of them died,” Mohammad Asim, a doctor said.
“Two of them were children under 12 years old,” he said, adding that many bodies were mutilated beyond recognition.
Some of the victims were identified as Waseem (driver), Mukhtar Ahmad, Rani Bibi, Shazia Bibi, Rabia, Nasira and Irum.
After learning about the accident, senior officials and rescue teams reached the spot.
Police officer Humayun Tarar said two of the injured were in serious condition. He said many of the victims died before rescue workers reached the place.
Meanwhile, Federal Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafiq and Federal Minister for Defence Production Rana Tanveer Hussain sought a report on the incident.
Talking to APP, a senior official of Pakistan Railways, Hameed Razi, said that unmanned railway crossings had been constructed on the demand of the people of the area and it was their responsibility to take precautionary measures.
Talking to media personnel at the PR headquarters in Lahore, Mr Rafiq expressed sadness over the accident. He ordered an inquiry and formed a committee for the purpose.
The minister said it had been decided at a meeting that no new manned or unmanned level-crossing would be allowed on the main railway line, adding that NOC would be issued only for underpasses and flyovers.
He said the total number of unmanned level-crossing in the railway record were 2,442. About 400 of these had already been declared critical.
However, he added, the matter was already under consideration due to its severity and that he held a meeting with the chief secretary of Punjab on the issue on Saturday.
The minister issued instruction for conducting a survey to assess how many unmanned level-crossings could be removed and how many could be converted into manned ones.
The minister said the driver of Karakoram Express, which hit the rickshaw, told him that he had applied emergency brakes but the train hit the rickshaw nevertheless.
Mr Rafiq said action would be taken if a railway employee was found guilty.
He appealed to the people to be careful while crossing unmanned railway crossings.
Provincial minister Rana Mashhood announced an amount of Rs500,000 for the heirs of each victim on behalf of the Punjab chief minister.—Agencies