Initial inquiry says gas cylinders blast caused Tezgam fire

Updated November 02, 2019

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FAISALABAD: Luggage scanner at the local railway station is not in working order. Railways have scanners at some major stations across the country but most of them remain non-functional. — Online
FAISALABAD: Luggage scanner at the local railway station is not in working order. Railways have scanners at some major stations across the country but most of them remain non-functional. — Online

LAHORE/RAHIM YAR KHAN: An initial investigation conducted by a Pakistan Railways’ team claims that the main reason behind Thursday’s Tezgam inferno was the gas leak and subsequent explosion of two cylinders and there was no evidence short-circuit, as claimed by some witnesses.

“It has been established that the fire erupted just after some passengers started preparing breakfast in the economy coach,” PR’s Chief Executive Officer Aijaz Ahmad Buriro told Dawn on Friday.

According to Mr Buriro, the Federal Government Inspector of railways (FGIR) has been asked to conduct both preliminary and detailed inquiries. “The FGIR will submit his preliminary inquiry report to the top rail authorities on Saturday (today) and a detailed inquiry report by Nov 20,” he added.

He said the PR administration would take action against officials concerned for their alleged negligence in the light of the findings of the detailed inquiry.

On the other hand, a senior civil defence official who has fire investigation expertise does not buy the PR version. He says gas cylinders are reduced into pieces after explosion. “In Tezgam case the two cylinders are largely intact with some small cuts and dents.”

Civil defence official says fire pattern suggests it was a short circuit

He said the pattern of fire eruption and its sudden spread to other coaches, as described by some survivors, suggest that its was a short-circuit.

“Electric system short-circuit travels very quickly. Had it been cylinders blast, fire would have been limited to one coach,” he added.

OPERATION: The railways operations across the country have been worsening fast for the last one year or so, claiming several lives in almost 100 major and small accidents. None of the senior officials was held guilty and penalised for negligence.

According to Haji Aleemullah, a Tableeghi Jamaat member who is attending the on-going congregation in Raiwind, said all those attending this annual gathering and those who travel across the country for preaching, are given instructions in writing. “As per instructions, they carry empty cylinders. We have learnt that before boarding Tezgam, the Jamaat team did show empty cylinders to the local rail authorities,” he said.

A senior PR official has sought judicial probe into the fire if the government really wants to reach the facts. “Since ordering an inquiry by the FGIR is sort of a departmental practice, it may save the guilty officials over the controversy of short circuit and cylinders blast. The government should better announce a tribunal for conducting a judicial inquiry into the incident as done to probe into Sangi trains accident and other serious incidents,” the official, who requested anonymity, demanded.

Another PR official, who also preferred anonymity said: “Whether it was due to short-circuit or cylinders blast, the fault lies with Pakistan Railways under the law,”

Meanwhile the relatives and heirs of the deceased of Tezgam inferno faced difficulties in receiving bodies (identified so far) at the Sheikh Zayed Medical Hospital in Rahim Yar Khan on Friday.

Reaching RY Khan from Hyderabad, Mirpur Khas and Umarkot, they told media that there were no arrangements from the hospital and the PR authorities to guide them.

“The hospital administration has told us that DNA tests of the dead and their immediate relatives would be conducted in Lahore. But when we approached the RYK railway station officials, they refused to facilitate us by issuing free tickets for Lahore,” Amjad, a relative of a deceased, said.

“Similarly, the district administration too remained indifferent as it didn’t arrange coffins for the bodies. Finally, the local Anjuman Tajran did the needful,” he deplored.

According to hospital focal person Rana Ilyas Ahmed, 62 bodies were brought here and only five were identified which were handed over to their heirs. “Though they faced difficulties, we have managed to bring a forensic team from Lahore here for collecting samples for conducting DNA tests,” he said

PR CEO Mr Buriro dispelled the impression, stating that the PR officials were facilitating passengers at various railway stations. Answering a question, he said there was no need for a judicial probe into the fire.

Published in Dawn, November 2nd, 2019