HYDERABAD: Crowds mill around the place where a passenger train slammed into a goods train on Thursday. Three people were killed in the collision.—Umair Ali
HYDERABAD: Crowds mill around the place where a passenger train slammed into a goods train on Thursday. Three people were killed in the collision.—Umair Ali

HYDERABAD: Three drivers of the Pakistan Railways (PR) lost their lives and a guard was injured when a passenger train rammed into a coal-laden goods train about 2km away from the Hyderabad railway station on Thursday.

The incident occurred at around 5.15pm when Lahore-bound Jinnah Express while negotiating a slight turn on upcountry track rammed into the goods train going to Yusufwala in Punjab.

Three bogies of the freight train were derailed but none of Jinnah Express’s bogies were derailed though its engine was destroyed. A section of the railway track was damaged.

Railway authorities were mobilising machinery, including a crane, to remove debris of the engine and bogies of the goods train from the track.

The upcountry track remained closed for rail traffic till the filing of this report at 9pm. Karachi-based chief controller office of the PR ensured departure of Jinnah Express for Lahore through down country track at around 8.45pm.

Cause of accident not determined yet; train schedule slightly affected

After the accident, Jinnah Express was taken to Kotri railway station where passengers stayed for over three hours.

“I felt that the driver applied emergency brakes but by that time our train had hit a goods train,” said Sami, a young passenger travelling in Jinnah Express. “Allah ney karam kar diya [God had mercy on us],” said another passenger from the same bogie of the train.

Three bogies of the goods train overturned and one of them fell on a cattle pen, killing some animals. Residents managed to rescue two but a few animals remained trapped under the debris of the coal-laden bogie.

“The system was allowing Jinnah Express to approach Hyderabad railway station. God knows better what happened whether its brakes failed or there was some negligence on part of the deceased driver,” said an official from Karachi’s chief controller office over phone.

He clarified that the goods train was not stationary and said that it was entering a railway yard.

He said that PR officers had reached the spot to find out reasons leading to the tragedy.

“Perhaps the driver of Jinnah Express failed to keep track of the system that runs parallel with the main track and hit the goods train. Only an inquiry can determine it,” said another official.

One of the deceased was identified as Aslam Chandio, who was said to be driving Jinnah Express. He was resident of Bucheri, Benazirabad district. The other deceased were identified as Syed Noman Ali and Yasir Bashir, both assistant drivers.

Aslam Chandio — who died in the intensive care unit of the Liaquat University Hospital’s City branch — was the same driver who had ran Rahman Baba Express and hit a car at an unmanned railway crossing in Matiari district on Wednesday. Both of Aslam’s colleagues were pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.

The injured was identified as Ali Imran, the guard at the goods train.

Labourers started working on the track to clear it of debris.

A heavy contingent of Rangers and police arrived at the venue of the accident to keep a crowd comprising hundreds of people away from wreckage. Fire tenders of Hyderabad Municipal Corporation arrived there and splashed water on the destroyed engine and the derailed bogies to ensure that they did not catch fire. It also threw water on the crowd to disperse them.

Meanwhile, train passengers remained stranded at Hyderabad and Kotri railway stations as arrival of Allama Iqbal Express, Tezgam, Millat Express, Pakistan Express and Karakoram Express was delayed. Jinnah Express was the first one to reach Hyderabad station through down country track, followed by Allama Iqbal Express.

Karachi division superintendent of the Pakistan Railways Mazhar Shah told journalists that their first priority was to restore upcountry track. “An inquiry will be conducted to determine circumstances leading to the accident,” he said.

According to the Lahore-based spokesman for the PR, Federal Railways Minister Shaikh Rasheed Ahmed has ordered an inquiry into the incident and directed the CEO of the Pakistan Railways to reach Karachi in this connection.

The spokesman said that Karachi-Lahore main track had been cleared and rail traffic had not been hindered by the accident.

Encroachment along tracks

The accident occurred near Khaskheli Mohallah located on left side of the upcountry track and Pathan Goth situated on right side of down country track. The thickly-populated area facing Autobhan road in Latifabad is also commonly known as Makrani Para.

The spot where the accident took place has been heavily encroached upon on both sides of the track. It is evident from the fact that houses and cattle pens are located at a few steps away from upcountry track and that is why the goods train’s bogies fell almost close to some houses of residents of Khaskheli Mohallah.

Published in Dawn, June 21st, 2019