NAUSHAHRO FEROZE, Dec 19: At least 50 people were killed and 203 others were injured when the Lahore-bound Karachi Express carrying most of holiday travellers derailed near Mehrabpur, some 55km from here in the early hours of Wednesday.

Twelve bogies of the train slipped off the track. The victims were trapped in four of them.

Two of the 16 bogies of the 15-up train were mangled, crushing the passengers trapped inside.

Railways Minister Tariq Mansoor told reporters at the site of the accident that he would not rule out sabotage. He said a committee headed by the Sindh home secretary would conduct an inquiry. He announced Rs200,000 for the heir of each deceased and Rs50,000 for each of the injured.

Hundreds of people from nearby villages helped the victims, but they faced difficulty in getting the injured people out of the wrecked bogies due to severe cold and darkness. The bogies had fallen on land with one to two feet of stagnant water.

The rescue operation could not be taken up immediately after the accident as there were no equipment to extricate the bodies and the injured from the mangled bogies.

After some time, railway officials from Sukkur and Nawabshah reached the place and established medical camps. Later, army teams from Pano Aqil and Rangers arrived and the army took over the rescue operation at about 8am. Gas cutters were arranged and the trapped passengers were taken out.

The in-charge of Edhi Centre in Sukkur, Mumtaz Ali, said that 32 bodies had been taken out while a number of others were still inside the bogies.

Health EDO Mir Irshad Talpur said that 203 injured had been taken to a rural health centre in Mehrabpur and 32 of them were later sent to Kandiaro taluka hospital, 10 to rural health centre in Halani and two to Lakha. He said 26 bodies had been taken to Mehrabpur and three to Kandiaro.

However, sources said that more than 45 bodies had been removed till the filing of this report.

Some of the deceased were identified as Imran (Khanewal), Mohammad Aslam (Arifwala), Mohammad Yousuf, Mohammad Arshad, Choudhry Ahmed Hussain, Shan Khan, Islamuddin (Mureedke), Muzaffar Ali, Shamoon Masih (Karachi), Faisal Abbas (Sialkot), Fayyaz Ahmed (Rahim Yar Khan), and Mohammad Ramzan (Sheikhupura).

The health EDO said that there were only 12 beds available at the Mehrabpur rural health centre but he had made arrangement for about 100 of the injured.

The women of the area reached the rural health centre with flasks and water coolers to help the injured.

An inspection of the railway track revealed that about 300 metres of railway track were without nuts and bolts. People of nearby villages complained that the railway track was not being looked after properly.

Naushahro Feroze DCO, in a press note issued through the information department, said that 50 passengers had been killed and more than 200 were injured.

He said that 40 bodies had been found, but the number of people killed might rise. He said the luggage of the injured had been shifted to Mehrabpur. About the cause of the incident, he said, it might be speeding and/or a defect in the track.

Sources said that the train driver had been taken into custody but the DCO did not confirm the arrest. Prominent social worker Abdul Sattar Edhi also arrived at the place.

Hundreds of people, travelling upcountry to celebrate Eidul Azha are reported stranded at different railway stations in Sindh.

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