LAHORE: About 73 people died and over 50 injured, many in critical condition, in an train inferno on Thursday in Punjab, Pakistan. The dead and injured were shifted to DHQ Hospital in Liaquatpur. Some of the injured have also been shifted to Bahawal Victoria Hospital in Bahawalpur due to their critical condition.
The train was bound for Rawalpindi from Karachi. The fire was caused by a cylinder blast that occurred in the morning when some passengers were preparing their breakfast, Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid said, adding that they belonged to a tableeghi jamaat (preaching party) and were headed towards Raiwand.n Many people saved their lives by jumping off the train, the minister said.
Railways Minister Rashid announced that a compensation of Rs1.5 million will be paid to the heirs of the deceased while Rs500,000 will be provided to those who are injured. He travelled to the scene of the incident and will meet families of the victims and the injured.
He said that two of the coaches that caught fire were booked under the name of the tableeghi jamaat’s emir Hussain. The ministry, he said, was preparing a list of the victims. Rashid said that it was a “failure” on the part of the Railways authorities since they failed to carry out thorough checking of the passengers’ luggage.
Later, in a press conference, the railways minister said that 134 trains had been making a minute-long stop for passengers in Raiwind. “The whole world earns from freight and we are the only ones who earn from passengers,” he said, adding that the ministry was now earning upto Rs180-190 million versus the previous Rs130 million figure. “And then this tragedy unfolded.”
Speaking about the tragic incident, Rashid said that the passengers who had been using the cylinder had been stopped by a guard and the driver from doing so. “In front of the guard they turned off the stove, but when he left, they turned it back on.”
The railways minister thanked all those who participated in rescue operations especially Pak Army ambulances who saved many lives by transporting them quickly to hospitals.
Rashid rejected the impression that there was a non-availability of “pull chains” to alert the driver to stop the train. “The train stopped due to the chain being pulled, otherwise the whole train would have been on fire.”
When asked about whether he will resign from the ministry, Rashid said he will speak about the matter on Sunday. He said an inquiry will be conducted within 15 days and the parties responsible punished.
Prime Minister Imran Khan said he was “deeply saddened by the terrible tragedy of the Tezgam train”. “My condolences go to the victims’ families and prayers for the speedy recovery of the injured. I have ordered an immediate inquiry to be completed on an urgent basis,” he said via Twitter.