RAWALPINDI, Jan 29: A train carrying over 600 passengers from here to Lahore derailed and six of its coaches fell into a deep ravine at Domaili near Jhelum, railway and police sources said.
According to initial reports, four passengers were killed and nearly 40 injured.
The accident occurred at a sharp curve at about 7:17pm.
A senior railway officer said railway police found nuts and bolts and some tools near a fairly long uprooted section of the track, which the railway authorities took into possession for investigations.
Ambulances rushed from nearby towns and transported the dead and the injured to hospitals in Jhelum, Gujar Khan, Rawalpindi and Islamabad.
Officials feared the number of casualties could rise as rescue work was continuing.
Pakistan Railways introduced the fast train in competition with the bus transport which do the Lahore-Rawalpindi journey in three-and-a half hours. A railway source claimed that the drivers of the train were under instructions to finish the journey within three and a half hours or face a fine.
Assistant driver of the Lahore Express Mohammad Ashraf told Dawn that the train was travelling at a speed of 80 kilometres per hour when the accident occurred while negotiating a turn in the mountainous Potohar area.
The engine and several coaches had made the turn when suddenly the six coaches behind jumped off the track and went about 100 feet down the ravine, he said.
Railway engineers at the scene suspected that light weight of the coaches bought from China, or a fault in the track could be the cause of accident.
General Manager Pakistan Railways Saleemur Rehman told Dawn that the train had left Rawalpindi at its scheduled time at 6pm for Lahore.
The railway authorities said that the driver, Amin Khan, and the other crew members were unhurt, but in a state of shock. The initial statement of the engine driver has been recorded by the railway authorities.
According to Amin Khan, it could be an act of terrorism or a fault in the track. However, none of the police officers concerned was available for their comments.
Waqas Bin Arshad, a Punjab University student, who was travelling in coach 2, told Dawn that there was a jolt and the train came to a halt after its driver tried to apply brakes. Later, the train plunged into dark due to power failure.
“We all began jumping from the train and running in the dark as the GT road is about 4 kilometre from the rail track.”
Anwar, a resident of Lahore, who was travelling in the train with his wife and two children, said he felt a strong jolt and the train derailed.
Some passengers said it appeared the rail track had been uprooted by saboteurs.
According to Jhelum police, the train plunged into the deep mountain ravine near the Sohan overhead bridge, which is away from the GT Road. Several motorists stopped and started rescuing passengers trapped in the train.
Justice Sardar Mohammad Khan of the Lahore High
Court was among the injured. He has been admitted to a Jhelum Hospital, SP Javed Khan said.
The wife and a daughter of district police officer Rawalpindi Saud Aziz were also travelling in the train. The DPO’s wife was injured but his daughter escaped unhurt.
The traffic between Lahore and Rawalpindi on the main track has been suspended and is likely to be restored by Monday.
It was the first crash of 108-down Lahore Express train.
The Lahore Express train started service between Rawalpindi and Lahore on August 14, 2004.
Federal minister for Railways Shamim Siddiqui arrived at the place and ordered an immediate probe into the accident. He also ordered railways and hospital authorities to provide proper treatment to the injured.
In response to a question about why the railways did not have a helicopter to evacuate the injured to hospitals in such incidents, he said he would take up the proposal with the government.
Zaheer Mahmood Siddiqui adds from Lahore: Minister of State for Railways Ishaq Khan Khakwani said that speeding appeared to be the main cause of the accident.
Two helplines – 9201692 and 9201110 – have been set up at the PR headquarters in Lahore.
General Manager (operations) Saleemur Rahman Akhoond along with senior officer went to Jhelum to supervise the relief operation. Mr Akhoond had returned to Lahore on Sunday afternoon after he was injured while inspecting the Mirpurkhas-Khokhrapar section. Officials said the trolley carrying Mr Akhoond and additional general manager (infrastructure, business unit) Imtiazul Haq had derailed. Mr Akhoond fell on the crush stone and was seriously injured.
Mr Imtiaz suffered minor bruises. Both the officials returned to Lahore in the afternoon, and Mr Akhoond rushed to Jhelum in the evening because of the derailment.
“Mr Akhoond may not participate in the final round of talks from Monday with the Indian authorities for reviving the Khokhrapar-Monabao train service,” they said.