Eighteen people were killed and at least 80 injured after the Akbar Express hit a parked cargo train at the Walhar Railway Station in Rahim Yar Khan’s Sadiqabad early Thursday morning.
The train was travelling from Rawalpindi to Quetta. Its engine and six bogies were completely destroyed in the accident that officials say was because the train was switched onto the wrong track.
There are fears that the death toll will rise. Forty-six injured passengers were taken to the Tehsil Headquarters Hospital Sadiqabad while the rest whose conditions were more serious were taken to the Sheikh Zayed Hospital in Rahim Yar Khan. An emergency has been declared at the Sheikh Zayed Hospital.
Rescue 1122 used more than 12 ambulances to transport people to the hospitals.
Initially, the death toll was placed at 11 but it rose to 18 after seven more bodies were found under the wreckage at around 1:30pm.
Following the accident, which occurred at around 4:30am, passengers had to be cut out of the destroyed bogies. The operation was initially delayed because it took a while for the Railway authorities to get hydro-cutting machines from other cities. Three machines were used to rescue people and Rescue 1122 officials as well as residents of the area helped pull people out of the wreckage.
Trains were summoned from Karachi, Sukkur and Lahore to aid in the relief work. The operation is now over and according to a railways spokeswoman, there are no passengers left in the train.
Passengers who were not injured were taken via the Business Express to Rohri. Federal Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid said in a televised statement that the accident was the result of human error. He said an investigation has been called and he said the station master could be at fault.
The goods train was already parked on the track when the Akbar Express hit it. The driver was reportedly going fast and did not have enough time to break. He has been identified as Yasir and also died in the accident.
Rahim Yar Khan DPO Umer Salman called it a very big accident. The Sadiqabad ASP, Hafeezur Rehman Bugti, said train operations on both tracks have been suspended. He confirmed that the accident was on the loop line and because the track was not changed.
According to a report submitted to the Railways general manager that was obtained exclusively by SAMAA TV, the Akbar Express driver was given the green signal to go by the station master at the Walhar Railway Station. However, the track was changed to the loop line, where trains are diverted to stop or park. At the time, the cargo train was parked there.
Because the driver was given the green signal, he did not slow down the train and went full speed, causing him to crash into the cargo train. According to Railways officials, the driver of the cargo train was standing beside the train and saw the entire incident. He narrated it to them and told them that the Akbar Express was given the green light to proceed by the station master.
Rashid told SAMAA TV that as minister he takes full responsibility for this accident. It was human error but it was an old track and an old signal, he said, adding that there has been no investment in the Railways for ages. To read our most recent story on the incident, click here.