KARACHI Eighteen people, including women and children, died on Tuesday after a passenger train collided head on with a goods train in the suburbs of the city.
The accident took place just a few minutes past 10am near Juma Goth railway junction, a couple of kilometres from Bhains Colony along the National Highway, when the driver of Allama Iqbal Express ignored a signal and rammed into another train coming from Karachi on the same track.
About 45 people were injured and at least two coaches of the passenger train were destroyed, officials and witnesses said.
'The cargo train was dead slow and Allama Iqbal Express had also slowed down maybe after its driver saw the other train coming on the same track,' said Haider Bukhsh, a primary schoolteacher who was among the first people to reach the scene.
'The number of casualties is much lower than feared because both trains were moving slowly. Otherwise a head-on collision could have caused disaster,' he said.
An official of the Pakistan Railways said the goods train was asked to move and change track from a loop line and at the same time Allama Iqbal Express was signalled to stop but its driver kept moving and collided with the goods train.
He said the delinquent driver managed to escape, but an inquiry had been ordered to fix responsibility.
People living in the vicinity tried to rescue the injured, but failed because they didn't have the required equipment. They said rescue teams of the city government, Railways and other agencies reached the place after more than an hour.
It took over six hours to retrieve bodies because the city government's Urban Search and Rescue Team, Pakistan Railways and charity organisations lacked resources, expertise and coordination.
'We first approached the nearby police station and then sent some bikers to the highway to seek help,' said Nadir Khan, a resident of Juma Goth.
The Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre received 18 bodies and 45 injured. 'Most of the dead received head injuries,' a JPMC spokesperson said.
Some of the dead were identified as Shayan (8), Manisha Ishaq (3), Roshan Jehan (50), Farzana Noor (30), Naureen (28), Ayaz Leghari, Tahir Aslam (40), Nasir (29), Lalazar (20), Fazal Elahi (20), Ismail Mahmood (21), Ismail Leghari (20), Narsingh Lakhpeer (20), Abdul Rasheed (45), Fazal Abbas (40), and Abdul Hafeez (45).