At least 71 people including many pilgrims died Thursday in the fire of a passenger train in Pakistan, caused by the accidental explosion of several gas cylinders, authorities said. The fire was extinguished in the middle of the morning while relief services continued to work in the charred cars of which smoke still exited, AFP journalists said at the scene.
“According to the information that comes to us from the scene of the accident, more than 65 people died and another 40 were injured,” provincial health minister Yasmin Rashid told AFP. The injured are being evacuated to hospitals in the region, he added. So far only 18 bodies were identified, the minister said.
A total of three cars, two of the second class and one of the first, caught fire after the explosion of two gas cylinders that passengers use to heat food, Ali Nawaz, a senior head of Pakistani rail transport, told AFP.
The majority of victims are pilgrims who went to a religious celebration near Lahore (east), according to the same source. For his part, Adnan Shabir, spokesman for local relief services, the balance of the accident is 73 dead and more than 40 injured.
Prime Minister Imran Kahn said he was “deeply sad about the terrible tragedy” and announced the opening of “an immediate investigation, which must be completed urgently,” he said on Twitter.
Television networks broadcast images of the train with several wagons devoured by the flames. “Terrible tragedy on a Tezgam train [the name of the line] over the explosion of a gas cylinder provided by a passenger. Prayers and condolences to the families of the victims,” Pakistani Minister of Human Rights, Shireen Mazari, wrote in Twitter
The accident “could have been avoided,” he added and regretted that luggage is rarely checked onboard trains. And it is that rail accidents are frequent in Pakistan, a country that inherited from the British colonial domination a large network of railways, currently in very bad condition, a result of decades of corruption, lack of investment, maintenance and improper management.
Last July a clash between two trains in the same area left 23 dead. Imran Khan then called for “urgent measures to address decades of negligence in rail infrastructure.”