MULTAN, Pakistan (AP) — Ten cars of a passenger train derailed in southern Pakistan on Sunday, killing 30 people and injuring more than 90 others, officials said.
Some of the derailed cars on the Hazara Express train overturned in the crash near the town of Nawabshah, senior railway officer Mahmoodur Rehman Lakho said. The train was going from Karachi to Rawalpindi when the 10 cars went off the tracks near the Sarhari railway station.
The derailed cars sprawled across or near the tracks in the flat, rural landscape. Local television showed rescue teams extracting women, children and elderly passengers from damaged and overturned cars. Some of the injured lay on the ground crying for help while locals gave out water and food.
Senior police officer Abid Baloch said from the scene that the rescue operation was complete by early evening: Dozens of the injured were brought to safety and the last flipped car cleared.
Expressing grief over the loss of life, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif prayed during a political gathering in Punjab for the souls of the departed and for the quick recovery of those injured.
“We all pray, may Allah grant a place in heaven to those who passed away and I wish quick recovery for the injured,” he said.
Lakho, who is in charge of railways in the accident area, said rescue crews took injured passengers to the People’s Hospital in Nawabshah.
Ihtesham Ali lost his family members and was looking for them in the chaotic situation. “Seven members of my family and 22 from my neighborhood were missing and so far we found only four of them, rest are still missing.”
Mohsin Sayal, another senior railway officer, said train traffic was suspended on the main line as repair trains were dispatched to the scene. Sayal said alternative travel arrangements and medical care would be made available for the train’s passengers.
All trains in both directions were held at the nearest stations till the tracks could be cleared, while all departures were delayed. Passengers at Karachi station complained that they were waiting in hope as railway authorities kept changing departure times.
Owais Iqbal, a Lahore bound passenger at Karachi railway station said: ”Our train was to depart at 5 p.m. Now we have been told that it will leave at 8 p.m. It may even get later. We are waiting. We are suffering because of the poor railway system.”
Minister for Railways Khwaja Saad Rafiq said an investigation into the cause of the crash was underway.
He said that military and paramilitary troops helped rescue workers to rescue the trapped passengers. The most seriously injured passengers were transported to distant hospitals in military helicopters for better treatment.
Train crashes often happen on poorly maintained railways tracks in Pakistan, where colonial-era communications and signal systems haven’t been modernized and safety standards are poor.