HYDERABAD/SUKKUR: The death toll in Monday’s twin train accident between Reti and Daharki railway stations reached 65 as rescuers found 10 more bodies under the wreckage of Millat and Sir Syed Express trains on Tuesday, officials said.
They said that after the hectic efforts of 30 hours Pakistan Railways authorities managed to open the up and down tracks between the two stations.
Ghotki SSP Umar Tufail said that rescuers found more bodies, including those of members of a wedding party that came to Sanghar from Punjab, and handed them over to their relatives.
“Actually, the death toll increased after the wreckage of another bogie of the ill-fated Millat Express was found under the debris of the engine of Sir Syed train,” Sukkur Commissioner Shafiq Mahesar told Dawn over phone.
Sukkur commissioner says PR machinery reached the site over 10 hours after the accident
The bodies were shifted to Mirpur Mathelo and Ubauro taluka hospitals of Ghotki. The place of the incident was close to Punjab border, but the bodies were not shifted to district Rahim Yar Khan keeping in view possible hardship to relatives.
The commissioner said that by Tuesday morning over 40 bodies had been handed over to their relatives in ambulances.
PR’s Sukkur division superintendent Mian Tariq Latif said that the upcountry track was opened at 10am and Bahauddin Zakaria Express was the first train that passed through the repaired track.
The down track was opened at around 12.40pm, he added.
Railway workers, labourers and rescuers struggled to restore at least one track by Monday night but didn’t succeed due to serious problems in mobilisation of machinery at the site of the tragedy.
Army soldiers, police and volunteers had actively participated in the rescue work.
Villagers also joined the rescue work, made announcements through mosques asking people to donate blood and provide water to the rescued passengers.
Different passenger trains including Green Line, Shah Hussain, Khyber Mail and Shalimar, which were stopped at different railway stations due to suspension of the railway traffic following Monday’s accident, departed for their destinations on Tuesday.
However, passengers of these trains faced miseries at different railway stations amid hot weather.
Railways’ slow response highlighted
Commissioner Mahesar was, however, upset with the slow response of the PR to the emergency situation.
“Their response was not altogether matching the scale of the disaster,” he said, adding that the railway’s machinery reached the site at around 2.30pm on Monday — over 10 hours after the accident.
The Ghotki SSP also said that the relief train took more than four hours to reach from the Rohri station.
“Mobility was badly hit especially for transporting machinery. It affected rescue work and restoration of tracks,” said SSP Tufail.
Local administrations arranged machinery from the Mari gas field and Engro and started the rescue work, which the commissioner said was a delicate job.
Inquiry body ordered
Federal Minister for Railways Azam Khan Swati is said to have ordered formation of a committee comprising senior PR officers to probe the tragedy.
The committee would submit its report within seven days after examining all aspects of the tragedy.
The committee comprising additional general managers Syed Mazhar Ali Shah, Asif Mateen Zaidi and Salman Sadiq would visit different railway stations as well before finalising its report.
Meanwhile, according to Edhi sources, bodies of some of the victims were identified as Wasim, 32, of Lodhran; Abdul Rehman, 12, of Toba Tek Singh; Sajida Parveen, 45, Toba Tek Singh; Noor Fatima, 15, of Lodhran; Atif Aslam, 3, of Faisalabad; Sajjad Abbas, 28, of Faisalabad and 17-year-old Saqib of Pak Air Force, Sargodha.
On June 7, the Millat Express was heading from Karachi to Sargodha when it derailed between Reti and Daharki stations in Ghotki district at around 3.30am, spilling eight carriages onto the opposite track carrying the Sir Syed Express from Rawalpindi that rammed into them. Around 1,200 passengers were travelling on the two trains.
The pre-dawn crash came as a grim reminder of the 2005 horrific accident on the same track in Sukkur railway division when three passenger trains had collided with each other, leaving at least 130 passengers dead and170 others injured.
Published in Dawn, June 9th, 2021