At least 30 people were killed and dozens of others injured on Sunday after an express train derailed in southern Pakistan, officials said, thrusting the dilapidated state of the country’s railway infrastructure back into the spotlight.
At least 11 carriages of the train, the Hazara Express, with at least 950 passengers onboard, fell off the tracks near the town of Nawabshah, local news media reported. The train, which left Karachi at 8 a.m., was heading to Havelian, in the northern part of the country.
Preliminary reports suggested that the Hazara Express had been operating at a moderate speed of 45 kilometers per hour (about 28 m.p.h.) when it derailed. Officials said the cause of the derailment could not be immediately determined.
At least 60 others were injured, an official said. Local TV networks broadcast images of crowds gathered around the derailed carriages as rescue workers tried to extricate the wounded from the mangled wreckage. Bodies pulled out of the debris were taken to a nearby hospital. Women and children were among those killed or injured.
Local workers, the railway authorities and paramilitary troops joined the rescue efforts. The Pakistan Army, following directives from the army’s chief, Gen. Syed Asim Munir, sent troops to assist the operations, according to a military statement.
Army helicopters were deployed to the crash site to take the wounded to nearby hospitals. Officials from the army and rangers were also distributing food to the survivors.
An emergency was declared at all hospitals in Nawabshah to accommodate the influx of injured passengers. Officials said that given the remote location of the accident, timely relief operations faced challenges.
The derailment led to the closure of both inbound and outbound tracks from Karachi, and a relief train was being dispatched from Kotri to assist with the situation, said the railways minister, Khawaja Saad Rafique.
The current government’s tenure is expected to conclude on Wednesday, and the railways minister said he had felt a sense of foreboding upon waking up on Sunday. “I thought we only had a few days left and was anxious about a potential accident,” he said during a news briefing.
Fatal train accidents have occurred with some frequency in Pakistan as the country’s railway system continues to grapple with deteriorating rail carriages and crumbling tracks. And safety standards are dismally lacking, experts say.
Efforts over the years to revamp the railway infrastructure and upgrade train carriages have met with limited success, despite repeated pledges by successive governments.