At least 70 people have been killed after gas cooking stoves exploded and set fire to a crowded train in Pakistan.Photo/Reuters
At least 70 people have been killed and more than 30 injured, some critically, after two gas cooking stoves exploded on board a train in Pakistan.
The fire, which was fuelled by cooking oil the passengers were carrying, engulfed three carriages of the train, which was carrying people from Karachi to a religious conference in Rawalpindi.
As smoke and flames tore through the train, desperate passengers threw themselves out of the moving carriages – many of them jumping to their deaths.
Children were among those killed in the blaze, according to local reports.
Officials said that most people died jumping from the moving carriages in a desperate bid to escape as the fire tore through the train.
Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid Ahmed told Geo TV: ‘Two cooking stoves blew up. They were cooking, they had (cooking) oil which added fuel to fire
Mr Ahmed said that poor passengers often bring their own small gas stoves on the trains to cook their meals, in violation of train safety rules.
As the fire took hold, the three burning economy class cars were disconnected from the rest of the train to prevent it spreading.
Radio Pakistan reported that there were 207 passengers on the economy class section of the train when the fire started.
The burning carriages eventually came to a stop near Rahim Yar Khan, around halfway along the train’s route.
The wounded were being rushed to hospitals in the nearby city of Bahawalpur and elsewhere in Rahim Yar Khan district, a local official said, adding that only 18 of the bodies were identifiable.
Local hospitals struggled to cope with the number of dead and wounded. When the morgue at Rahim Yar Khan District hospital filled up, medics said bodies had to be sent to Multan District hospital, some three hours away.
The burning train eventually came to a stop near Rahim Yar Khan, around halfway along the train’s route, allowing rescue workers to douse the flames
President Arif Alvi ‘expressed profound grief on the loss of precious lives in the tragic blast’, his office said on Twitter.
‘Terrible… train tragedy with gas cylinder carried by passenger exploding,’ tweeted human rights minister Shireen Mazari.
Mazari said the train was the Tezgam, one of Pakistan’s oldest and most popular train services, which runs between the garrison city of Rawalpindi, adjacent to Islamabad, and the southern port city of Karachi.
Train accidents are common in Pakistan, where the railways have seen decades of decline due to corruption, mismanagement and lack of investment.
In July, at least 23 people were killed in the same district when a passenger train coming from the eastern city of Lahore rammed into a goods train that had stopped at a crossing.
were among those killed in the blaze, according to local reports.
SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES