Ministry points out ‘flaws’ in Tezgam fire inquiry

Updated February 03, 2020

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In this file photo, firefighters work to cool down the burnt-out train carriages after a passenger train caught on fire near Rahim Yar Khan on October 31, 2019. — AFP
In this file photo, firefighters work to cool down the burnt-out train carriages after a passenger train caught on fire near Rahim Yar Khan on October 31, 2019. — AFP

LAHORE: The Ministry of Railways has raised several objections to the recently released inquiry report on the Oct 31 tragic Tezgam fire tragedy near Rahim Yar Khan, terming it full of flaws and bias.

Though the ministry raised concerns over the report, the office of the Federal Government Inspector of Railways, a top office empowered to probe into the train accidents under the Railways Act, stuck to its stance and got it approved from the quarters concerned.

However, an official source in the ministry told Dawn that the minister for railways or the chairman/secretary may withdraw approval of the report in coming days, keeping in view objections raised by the ministry. “Since the report has been approved, a committee of the PR’s additional general managers has started reviewing it in depth,” said the official on anonymity request.

According to a detailed written response given by the ministry, the FGIR’s report states raises a question that how the air from the ACC Business Class (coach no 11, marshaled 5th from locomotive) could do much while it was in the rear of Coach 12 (marshaled 4th from locomotive) and the train was moving in up direction and in this situation air should have thrust from economy class coach 12 (marshaled 4th) to AC Business Class coach No 11. (marshaled 5th from locomotive) according to laws of Physics but “here it has been described inverse to that. It is also noteworthy that a majority of causalities happened in Coach 12 and 13 but not in Coach 11.”

It states the train was fully packed to the extent that central passages and spaces adjacent to washrooms were also occupied. “At various places the FGIR states that the dining car contractor made makeshift kitchen with all arrangements in vestibule between coaches. If the vestibules were occupied by the passengers then how a makeshift kitchen with all arrangements can be made? This contradiction with clear-cut indication to any one of the stances, bearing the burden of evidence merits to be ruled out,” the response questions.

It quotes the FGIR as describing the role of forensic lab and its lab test. “According to him the inquiry report is very clear that there was a role of LPG cylinder in aggravating the fire. The circumstantial evidence reveals that initial cause of fire is not LPG cylinder but it only provided fuel to fire.

In this regard he refers to report of forensic science, giving an impression that the lab had verified the initial cause of fire was not LPG cylinder. But the forensic test report does not speak about any circumstantial evidences, as it only points out blast of two cylinders probably due to gas leakage and any ignition,” said the letter.

The ministry also expressed doubts over the FGIR’s inquiry report regarding pulling of train’s chain by some passengers, applying of brakes by the driver, assistance from forensic sciences lab, time of incident, eye witness account of Tableeghi Jamat members carrying LPG cylinders, talks with the survivors, samples collected for forensic lab, inefficiency of officers/staff, misuse or/and short circuiting of electric system, unauthorized use of mobile charging points using electric kettle etc, power socket of 220 volts, conspicuous behavior of dining car staff (use of delaying tactics to avoid inquiry) etc.

The official said since the concerns raised by the ministry seemed logical, the committee of AGMs may recommend the minister and the chairman to withdraw approval to the report. “We are waiting for a right decision to reach the facts related to the tragedy,” the official hoped.

Published in Dawn, February 3rd, 2020