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The smouldering wreckage of the passenger van. — Online
The smouldering wreckage of the passenger van. — Online

RAWALPINDI: At least 12 people, including children, burned to death after an overcrowded Rawalpindi-bound wagon caught fire after colliding with a heavy trailer on the M2 Motorway near Chakri on Tuesday.

Five others, including the driver, were injured in the crash.

Alishba, 2, and her one-year-old brother Mohammad Hassan were killed in the accident, while their parents, Mohammad Ali and Shaista, were injured. Shaista sustained only minor burns and was discharged after being administered first aid. Her husband, however, was badly burnt and remains under treatment at the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) Rawalpindi.

Haroon Rashid, relative of Mohammad Ali, told Dawn that the family was returning from Jhang along with another relative after attending a wedding function when the passenger wagon they were travelling in rammed into a long-wheel trailer in the early hours of Tuesday.

Five hurt as Pindi-bound van collides with trailer after driver falls asleep at the wheel

According to Shaista, he said, the van driver was asleep at the wheel when the vehicle rammed into the trailer. Those who survived only managed to escape because the rear windscreen was broken in the crash, allowing them to clamber out of the vehicle before it was engulfed by flames.

Although the children’s bodies were handed over to their family after a post mortem, Mr Rashid said police had asked to carry out a DNA test on both corpses.

In addition to this family, another woman Salma, Faisal Hayat and a one-year-old boy was also injured.

According to a spokesperson for the National Highways and Motorway Police (NHMP), the accident occurred when the passenger wagon (LZT-1212) reached near Chakri. At the time, the wagon driver – identified as Asif – dozed off and lost control of the vehicle.

As a result, the passenger wagon crashed into a trailer in front of it, after which it caught fire.

Soon after the accident, an NHMP patrolling van reached the scene and called for emergency services to start rescue efforts.

According to police, the bodies of the deceased were charred beyond recognition, while the injured were shifted to CMH, Pims and DHQ hospitals.

Mohammad Arshad, nephew of Mohammad Sharif – an elderly passenger who was traveling on the ill-fated wagon when it crashed – told Dawn his uncle was coming to Rawalpindi to see his ailing son, who was to undergo surgery.

“Before leaving for Rawalpindi, my uncle spoke to me and informed me that he would be reaching in the early hours of Tuesday,” he said.

Chontra police have registered a case and an investigation has been launched. Surprisingly, police said that the wagon was not carrying a CNG cylinder, which was initially thought to have exploded.

However, investigators said that the vehicles fuel tank could have ignited, resulting in the inferno that left all dead bodies charred beyond recognition. Consequently, the rest of the deceased have yet to be identified.

Ikram Junaidi adds: As many as eight dead bodies and two of the injured from the Chakri crash were brought to Pims on Tuesday.

“Since the accident took place in the vicinity of Rawalpindi, therefore all dead bodies were transferred to the Rawalpindi DHQ hospital. However, the wounded were discharged after treatment,” Dr Arshad Mehmood Janjua said.

In addition, two of the six patients who were burnt when a cylinder exploded in Bari Imam on Monday, passed away on Tuesday.

Umar Shahzad, 15, who sustained 100pc burn injuries, and Mohammad Arif, 65, who had sustained 85pc burns, died on Tuesday. Four other patients are still being treated at the burns centre.

Published in Dawn, September 13th, 2017