KHAIRPUR: Some passengers in the front portion of the Karachi-bound bus from Swat were anxious about the increasingly sleepy driver at the wheel and made him pull over for a while at a roadside restaurant before they later met with an accident near the Theri bypass in Khairpur at around 5am on Tuesday.

The head-on collision between the fast-moving bus with 79 people on board and the coal-laden truck on the National Highway was heard far and wide.

A few surviving passengers told the media that people sitting in the front portion of the bus were so worried about the driver’s ability to ward off sleep that they could not help advising him to stop the bus and get some rest before going ahead with the rest of the journey, a little over 450 kilometres from Karachi.

The driver heeded their advice and pulled over at a roadside restaurant where he and other passengers took tea and some refreshment. The driver also had some rest before again sitting behind the wheel, the survivors said.

A bus ride between Swat and Karachi generally takes around 28 hours.

Assuming that the driver was now fit and watchful enough to take them to their destination, the passengers and crew boarded the bus.

The survivors said that the speeding truck emerged all of a sudden so close to the fast-running bus that the bus driver had no opportunity to avoid what was a head-on crash.

Residents of the areas around the accident site told the media that the vehicles passing through the spot were vulnerable to accidents because of the ongoing road-building work. They said the closure of one side of the road for repairs had left a very narrow lane open for traffic and drivers faced great difficulty in passing through, with when another vehicle driving by. One injured victim told the media that he lost all six family members travelling with him by the bus.

The ordeal of a four-year-old girl desperately searching for her mother moved many to tears at the site of the tragic road crash. Speaking in Pashto, she said her name was Warda and she accompanied her mother. She said they were going to Karachi to see her father, Nisar Khan. She suffered no injuries in the accident but the rescuers couldn’t find her mother.

After collecting some information from other survivors, the volunteers managed to contact her father and informed him about the death of his wife and the plight of his daughter.

The police and the officials concerned were criticised by all present at the site of the accident for the delay in transporting the survivors to hospitals in Khairpur and Sukkur. They wanted to first retrieve the bodies stuck in the bus wreckage.

It was reported that personnel of the regular and motorway police arrived at the scene late and the tools and machinery required to rescue the people could be arranged only with a further delay. However, government officials rejected the claim, saying that the rescue operation was promptly initiated.

Pakistan Peoples Party MNA Nafisa Shah visited the Civil Hospital Khairpur to supervise the relief work. She issued directives for proper treatment of the injured victims.

Sukkur Commissioner Mohammad Abbas Baloch also visited the accident site and the hospital to monitor the relief and rescue work.

Published in Dawn, November 12th, 2014

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