At least 74 people dead, over 40 others injured in fire caused by gas stove
At least 74 people died and over 40 others were injured on Thursday after a fire broke out on a train traveling from Karachi to Rawalpindi, some dying after leaping from carriages to escape the inferno.
“According to information reaching us from the site of the accident, more than 65 people were killed and over 40 injured,” Punjab health minister Dr. Yasmin Rashid told AFP, saying the injured were being transported to local hospitals. Local officials later amended that toll to 74, with at least 44 people being administered treatment in hospital.
“A cylinder exploded and I don’t know how, fire erupted everywhere,” one survivor, Muhammad Imran, told AFP from a hospital in Rahimyar Khan. “I jumped out of the train to save my life. There was a whole line of people behind me, they pushed,” he said.
The District Police Officer of Rahimyar Khan district, Ameer Taimore Khan, told journalists the fire had been caused by a gas cylinder stove. He said a group of passengers had been in the process of cooking breakfast using a gas stove, when it burst into flames. The flames grew worse once the cooking oil being used by the passengers also caught on fire.
“[A] huge fire erupted in economy class bogie of Tezgam train when it was crossing through Chani Goth area lying within jurisdiction of Tehsil Liaquatpur of Rahimyar Khan district,” he said, adding that the fire had engulfed three bogies in total, including one economy class and two business class bogies.
According to the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP), the deputy commissioner of Rahimyar Khan, Jameel Ahmed Jameel claimed the fire had been set by a group of the missionary Tablighi Jamaat, who were traveling to Rawalpindi before heading to Raiwind for their annual gathering.
The Pakistan Army has deployed troops, doctors and paramedics to the site to assist local rescue teams, according to a statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations. It said a helicopter had also been dispatched from Multan to aid in rescue efforts.
The Bahawalpur district emergency officer of the emergency Rescue 1122 service, Baqir Hussain, told APP ambulances and rescue teams had also been deployed to Chani Goth, Liaquatpur, from Bahawalpur. He said the dead and injured had been shifted to hospitals in Liaquatpur and Bahawalpur, with the critically injured sent to Bahawal Victoria Hospital (BVH) Bahawalpur.
A senior official of Pakistan Railways told APP an inquiry had been ordered to investigate the incident, adding the railway track had already been cleared for routine traffic.
Railways minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed said it had been “tradition” for authorities to allow people traveling to the Tablighi Jamaat to board trains carrying cooking cylinders. “I admit our mistake… this will not happen in the future,” he told journalists in televised comments.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has expressed deep grief and sorrow over the loss of lives in the Tezgam Express incident, according to Radio Pakistan. Condoling with the families of the deceased and injured, the P.M. also directed also authorities concerned to provide prompt and best possible medical treatment to the victims of the fire.
Train accidents are common in Pakistan, where the railways have seen decades of decline due to corruption, mismanagement and lack of investment. In July, at least 23 people were killed in the same district when a passenger train coming from Lahore rammed into a goods train that had stopped at a crossing.