NAWABSHAH/KARACHI: A man and a woman were killed and 15 others were injured when the Karachi-bound Karakoram Express derailed near the Bandhi railway station, some 55 kilometres from Nawabshah, early Wednesday.
The engine and three carriages of the train derailed near the north crossing of the Bandhi station, railway officials said.
The deceased victims were identified as Mohammad Ali and Kaneez Fatima.
Residents of nearby villages rushed to the scene and started rescue and relief work, besides providing the injured victims with food and water.
Rail traffic on both up and down tracks of the main line remained suspended for about nine hours and a number of trains, including Shalimar Express, Hazara Express, Awam Express, Karachi Express, Tezgam and Millat Express, were halted at nearby stations.
A relief train reached the spot and carried out repair work but in the nine-hour operation it managed to clear only the up track. The work to clear the down track was under way till late in the evening.
Driver of the derailed train Ameer Bukhsh Rind said that the train was moving at a speed of 40 kilometres an hour when he felt a strong jerk just after it passed through the Bandhi crossing. He said he applied emergency brakes which resulted in the derailment.
Nawabshah SHO Jam Ramzan ruled out any act of sabotage leading to the accident, explaining that the initial information indicated some technical fault in the pacing point being responsible for the derailment.
“The ministry of railways is setting up a committee to ascertain the cause of the accident and a case will be registered in the light of its findings,” he said.
Most of the stranded passengers faced great hardship due to the absence of essential facilities, required to be available in such emergencies, within the area.
The railway and area police along with some revenue officials joined in the rescue operation late as many passengers had already left by then to resume their journey by road.
Some of the injured victims were transported to the Peoples Medical University Hospital, Nawabshah, and some others to the health centres in Daur and Bandhi town for emergency treatment.
Moving scenes at Karachi station
Waiting on Platform No 8 of the Karachi Cantonment Railway Station for the Karakoram Express, which was to arrive on Wednesday afternoon, Zubair Sultan said: “My heart almost stopped beating the moment I got a call from my elder brother that the Karachi-bound train they were travelling in had met with an accident.
“Thank God, no one in my family was hurt as they were in the coach number six and most of the damage was sustained by the first three coaches but my mother, who was also in the train, suffers from high blood pressure. She is not doing very well,” he said.
There was an ambulance parked near the platform. It was said that the train was carrying injured passengers along with at least three bodies.
When the train finally arrived it was almost empty. On inquiry from the few passengers stepping out it was revealed that after receiving first aid at Nawabshah, the injured had gone their separate ways by road. The bodies, too, were claimed by their families in Nawabshah. Only one arrived by the train. It was in one of the last coaches in front of which the lone ambulance at the station finally pulled up.
A visibly shaken man and a very calm but quiet frail old man stepped out. Only when someone embraced them did they break down into sobs.
“You all bring her out please. I don’t think I can,” Yawar Hussain, the old man, said looking at the younger one, his son, and the others who had come to receive them. “She was my wife. Who knew our life’s journey together will end with this train,” he said quietly.
Meanwhile, the young man after getting a grip over his emotions started cursing Pakistan Railways. “The coaches were all broken, especially the first three ones and we are in the third. It seemed they didn’t even belong to this train. They looked different than the other coaches and even the fans in them didn’t work,” said the man who introduced himself as Irfan Haider. He had scratches and bruises all over his hands and arms.
“We were coming to Karachi from Lahore to attend a wedding. We were all in a jolly mood that even the train condition before the accident couldn’t spoil,” he said.
“The accident took place at around 5am. My 70-year-old mother, Kaneez Zehra, was asleep on the lower berth and I was sleeping on the upper one at the time. Suddenly, there was a loud screech as all the berths crushed into each other and the floor folded upwards. My daughter got caught between the berths but survived but my mother ...,” he grew quite for a few seconds.
“We were on the wrong track and instead of putting us on the other track at the last moment which could have thrown the entire train off-track, the engine driver slammed brakes to avoid a collision with the train in the front that resulted in the crushing of the front coaches,” he said.
When Dawncontacted Divisional Superintendent of Pakistan Railways Nisar Memon about the details of the incident and their alternative arrangements in its wake, he said that they had been able to restore one track on which the traffic was being directed at the moment. “Work is under way to restore the other line, too.”
About the injured, he said: “Well, after getting initial treatment at the hospital at Nawabshah they all went their separate ways. Most preferred to travel by road.”
When informed about the accusations about how the accident took place and the broken, out-of-order and mismatched coaches, he said that all coaches were same or similar in all Pakistan Railways trains. “There are the old ones and the new Chinese ones but all are designed for all our trains so I don’t quite understand what the gentleman means,” he said. “As for the accident and how it occurred we have initiated an inquiry.” he added.
About the damage, he said: “The engine is damaged along with two coaches. But we are assessing the total damage right now.”
Minister for Railways Khwaja Saad Rafique, meanwhile, announced compensation of Rs500,000 for each of the deceased and Rs100,000 each for the injured victims.