35 perish, 100 injured as 10 bogies of Hazara Express derail

HYDERABAD:

A tragic accident, also bearing some unexplained hallmarks of sabotage, struck the Hazara Express near the Sarhari railway station in the Sanghar district on Sunday, claiming at least 35 lives and injuring around 100 others, rescuers said.

Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah and the local authorities told the media that 10 bogies of the Hazara Express derailed over Dadwah – a fresh water distributary – around 1.5 kilometres away from the station.

There were 19 bogies in the train that had left Karachi with around 1,100 passengers on board. The accident occurred around quarter past one, near the rural town of Sarhari, located some 30 kilometres away from Nawabshah.

The impact of accident was huge that even the railway tracks ripped off from the ground. Shah, who visited the scene, gave the death toll of 30 but the Edhi Foundation said they shifted 35 bodies to a hospital in Nawabshah.

Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique as well as the train’s driver expressed fears of sabotage, but the Nawabshah Division Commissioner Muhammad Abbas Baloch believed that the train met with an accident.

Witnesses spoke of horrible scenes at the crash site. They said that bodies were scattered outside the train, adding that a few bodies were seen severed into pieces on the track while others fallen on the ground and in the waterway.

Before the official rescuers and the law-enforcement personnel could reach the site, hundreds of local people and the surviving passengers started to pull out the passengers stranded in the derailed bogies.

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The army, local police, Rangers and volunteers soon joined the rescue efforts which lasted for several hours. Ambulances and health teams were also dispatched to the site from other cities.

According to the officials, 20 ambulances were dispatched from Hyderabad including four equipped with ventilators, to ferry the injured to the nearest hospitals.

The movement of trains from the upcountry to Karachi remained suspended throughout the day but the commuters between Nawabshah and the upcountry areas continued their journey.

Chief Minister Shah and General Officer Commanding of Hyderabad Garrison, Maj-Gen Dilawar Khan, separately visited the site of the accident and inspected the rescue work.

“The passengers from nine bogies have been pulled out but efforts are still being made to clear the tenth bogie,” the chief minister said, talking to the media just before the sunset.

Shah said that he spoke to the railways minister, who told him that relief trains equipped with the machines to lift the bogie were dispatched from Rohri and Kotri railway stations in Sukkur and Jamshoro districts, respectively.

He informed that he had directed the local authorities to immediately release the list of the deceased people so that hundreds of other distressed families could be relieved from the mental agony of losing their loved-ones.

“I met the injured in the hospital and also enquired about their health. The most common complaint which I got to hear was about missing family members and friends, who were travelling with those patients,” he shared, appearing downcast.

At that time, the chief minister gave a death toll of 30 passengers, but the Edhi Foundation later said that its ambulances shifted 35 bodies to the Peoples Medical University (PMU) Hospital in Nawabshah.

Despite the chief minister’s instructions, the complete list of the deceased could not be released by Sunday night. The identities of only two dozen dead passengers were confirmed.

Among the deceased, 11 belonged to Sanghar and three to Ghotki. Among the injured, the PMU Hospital said, 51 were admitted, while other wounded people were shifted to other cities, including Sanghar.

Over a dozen children also sustained injuries. Some patients also underwent amputations at the PMU Hospital. By nightfall, 38 injured passengers were admitted to the PMU Hospital, while the others were discharged.

According to the local officials, the engine driver, Rashid Minhas, told them that he was driving at a speed of 50 kilometres per hour when the bogies suddenly tipped over.

He said he did not see any problem on the tracks, which could derail the bogies, the officials quoted the driver as saying “The speed limit on this track is 105 kilometres per hour but the train was moving at 50,” Minhas claimed.

According to the officials, the drive expressed the fear that sabotage was the likely reason for this unexpected derailment. “The way we felt a sudden jolt in the engine pointed towards it,” an official quoted the driver.


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