KARACHI, Aug 23: An elderly man, looking dazed and dishevelled, was arrested on Wednesday for stealing a diesel locomotive from a marshalling yard on the city’s outskirts and driving it for at least 30 kilometres to apparently smash the engine into a crowded passenger train.

However, railways authorities averted what would have been a fatal accident by diverting the locomotive to a loop line before brining it to a halt.

Police identified the shabbily dressed man as Madan Lal and said he was a resident of Hyderabad. They also detained the locomotive’s driver and fireman who had walked off to have tea.

“If the man had managed to hit the locomotive with the Baba Farid Express from behind, he would have caused a major accident – in which he might have also been killed,” said Railways SSP Malik Afzal.

Railways officials said another incoming train, the Karakoram Express, would have hit the wreckage of the train and the locomotive on the main line, causing a great loss of human life.

They said the locomotive’s disappearance was noted on Tuesday night. “It was shortly afterwards spotted near the Landhi station where it was flagged down. But when it did not stop, the Baba Farid Express was asked to travel at a faster speed. The train engine was then promptly diverted to a loop line.”

They said Lal, who tried to run away, did not look mentally stable.

SSP Afzal said police would first find out how the locomotive – which could not be run by an inexpert man – was driven out of the Pipri marshalling yard unchallenged. He added that an inquiry into the incident was under way.

Sources told Dawn that Railways divisional superintendent Mir Mohammad Khaskheli had at first sought to hush up the matter and asked police not to register a case. But police not only registered an FIR under Sections 126/127 and 101 of the Railway Act against Lal but also booked the divisional superintendent in the same FIR under Sections 353/34 of the Pakistan Penal Code.

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