GUJRANWALA: At least 19 people, including four army officers, were killed when three bogies of a special train carrying army officials fell into a canal and one other was derailed as a railway bridge collapsed near Gujranwala on Thursday.
A statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said 14 dead bodies had been recovered from the site of the incident, while divers were searching the canal for five more dead bodies.
The deceased include Pakistan Army Engineering Battalion Unit Commander Lt. Col Amir Jadoon, his wife and two kids, Lt. Col Rashid, Major Adil, Lieutenant Kashif, Constable Islam, Lance Naik Zafar and staffers Babar and Aslam.
Major General Asim Bajwa tweeted that four bogies of a special train carrying military troops to Kharian fell over a bridge near Jamke Chattha into a canal.
Another tweet confirmed that 12 personnel, including Commander of a unit, Lt. Col Amir had died.
A relief train, carrying technical and medical staff, has been sent to the spot from Lahore, while two helicopters and other rescue teams have started relief operations.
According to government officials, as many as 80 affected passengers have been rescued. Injured passengers have been shifted to the Combined Military Hospital (CMH), Gujranwala.
The special train was heading to Kharian from Pano Aqil. According to sources, the train was carrying army personnel who were travelling for a military exercise.
Local residents, divers and army personnel have been engaged in rescue operations while all railway traffic has been disrupted on the route.
The pre-partition bridge that collapsed as the train was passing over it was reportedly in a dilapidated condition.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has expressed concern on the train accident in Gujranwala. He directed to mobilise all resources to rescue the injured and restoration of the track.
COAS attends funeral services of the deceased
|COAS Gen Raheel Sharif attends funeral prayers of deceased army men. -DawnNews screengrab|
The Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Raheel Sharif on Thursday night attended the funeral services in Gujranwala Cantonment of army men and others who died in a train accident in the noon.
The army chief also visited the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) Gujranwala where he met the people injured in the accident and inquired about their health, said a statement issued by the ISPR.
Bridge was not in a dilapidated state: DGPR Railways
The railway bridge which collapsed near Gujranwala on Thursday and led to the deaths of at least 19 people, was in a completely fine condition and sufficiently strong, claimed the Director General Public Relations of Pakistan Railways (PR) Abdul Rauf Tahir while talking to DawnNews.
Tahir said all railway bridges, including the one near Gujranwala, were thoroughly examined in January and this particular bridge was deemed perfectly fit for railway traffic.
He said about 90 minutes prior to the incident, which took place at around 12 noon, the train on Rawalpindi-Karachi-Rawalpindi passed over the same railway bridge "safely in full speed".
Tahir further said it was evident from the footage being shown on TV channels that bridge was not in rundown condition as the pillars of the bridge still stand erect.
Tahir said PR had formed an investigation team to probe the incident and it was likely that the team would probe alongside intelligence agencies.
Final report of train accident in 72 hours: Saad Rafique
Federal Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique said investigation to ascertain facts behind the train accident was under progress and the final report of the accident will be compiled within 72 hours.
He was talking to media at the site of the accident near Gujranwala on Thursday.
Rafique said the condition of railway bridges was checked four times a year.
Rafique had earlier said that so far no evidence of terrorism has been found. But he did say the possibility of sabotage could not be ruled out in the tragedy.