Death toll in Pakistan train disaster climbs to at least 40

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The death toll in the horrific railroad accident in Pakistan climbed to at least 40 on Monday, with more than 100 injured — as rescuers and villagers continued to pull victims from the wreckage.

Several people were still trapped in the trains near Daharki, in a remote part of rural Sindh province, which took rescuers with special equipment hours to reach, Agence France-Presse reported.

The accident happened around 3:30 a.m. local time Monday when most of the 1,200 passengers on the Millat Express — which was headed from Karachi to Sargodha when it derailed — and the Sir Syed Express from Rawalpindi would have been asleep.

“We tumbled upon each other, but that was not so fatal,” Akhtar Rajput, a passenger on the Millat Express, told AFP.

“Then another train hit us from nowhere, and that hit us harder. When I regained my senses, I saw passengers lying around me, some were trying to get out of the coach,” he added.

It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the derailment, and the driver of the Sir Syed Express said he braked when he saw the disabled train but not in time to avoid the crash.

“The challenge for us is to quickly rescue those passengers who are still trapped in the wreckage,” said district police chief Umar Tufail.  

People with critical injuries were expected to be flown by helicopter to a nearby city’s hospital.

Railways Minister Azam Swati, who headed to the scene, told the Associated Press that engineers and experts were trying to determine what caused the accident — and that all possibilities would be examined, including sabotage.

Pakistan Railways Chairman Habibur Rehman Gilani told Geo News TV that the part of the tracks where the crash took place was old and needed replacing. He did not elaborate.

Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid, a former railways minister, said the track in the area was built in the 1880s and described it as “a shambles,” according to AFP.

A senior police official said he had already warned authorities about the “dangerous condition” of the tracks and the train cars.

Railroad accidents are common in Pakistan, which inherited thousands of miles of track and trains from former colonial power Britain.

The network has seen decades of decline due to corruption, mismanagement and lack of investment, AFP reported.

In 1990, more than 300 people were killed and 700 injured when an overloaded train crashed into a stationary freight train near the city of Sukkur in Sindh.

In October 2019, at least 75 people died when a train caught fire while traveling from Karachi to Rawalpindi.

With Post wires

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