At least 16 people were killed while 84 others were injured when a passenger train, the Akbar Express, collided with a freight train at the Walhar Railway Station in Sadiqabad on Thursday morning, officials said.
Rahim Yar Khan Deputy Commissioner (DC) Jamil Ahmed Jamil said all passengers onboard the train, which was headed to Quetta, had been removed from the wreckage and track clearance operations were underway.
Earlier, Jamil had said that heavy machinery was being used to remove passengers who were stuck in the train, adding that they were being provided with food and water.
A police spokesperson said that police, rescue officials and other relevant agencies were busy in the rescue operations. Authorities said the Pakistan Army was also taking part in the rescue efforts.
He said that ambulances from various areas in the district had started reaching the site of the incident in order to shift the injured to DHQ Sadiqabad and Sheikh Zayed Hospital in Rahim Yar Khan.
The spokesperson said that as soon as they received information about the accident, Sadiqabad ASP Dr Hafeezur Rehman Bugti and a large contingent of police had reached the site of the incident.
Rahim Yar Khan DPO Umar Farooq Salamat said that based on initial reports, when the signal changed on the track, the passenger train went on to the loop line where a freight train was parked resulting in the accident.
Prime Minister Imran Khan offered his condolences to the families of the victims.
In a post shared on Twitter, the premier offered prayers for the speedy recovery of the injured.
“Have asked Railways Minister to take emergency steps to counter decades of neglect of railway infrastructure [and] ensure safety standards,” he wrote.
Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid Ahmad also expressed grief over the loss of precious lives caused by the accident.
Rashid said that the accident appeared to have occurred due to human negligence. He said that he had issues orders for a top-level investigation into the incident.
He announced compensation of Rs1.5 million for the families of the deceased and Rs0.5 million each for the injured.
The minister said that the general manager of Pakistan Railways and other relevant officials had been sent to the site of the accident, adding that rescue operations were underway with the help of the district administration.
“I am reviewing the accident [and] I have told railway officials to speed up rescue and relief operations,” Rashid said. He said that he would issue a more detailed statement later on.
According to a spokesperson for Pakistan Railways, an information cell has been set up in Sukkur division for the families of those injured and killed in the accident.
Call for accountability
While expressing grief over the incident, PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that Rashid was “fully responsible” for train accidents and called for an inquiry against the minister.
He said that until the inquiry was completed, Rashid should resign from his post.
In a statement shared on Twitter by the PPP, Bilawal said: “Train accidents are starting to become routine, the railways minister is unable to do anything.”
The PPP leader said that he was informed that since Rashid had become the minister he had not even provided the supplies required for the repairs of railway tracks.
Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif also expressed grief over the accident and said weak railway tracks and poor planning were becoming the basis for accidents, which he said was unfortunate.
He said that action should be taken against those responsible for the incident today.
In response to Prime Minister Imran’s message of grief about the incident, lawyer and activist Jibran Nasir said: “Expressing grief alone will not fix things.”
He called for the removal of the railways minister.
PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz also shared a post on Twitter to express grief over the incident.
“The ineptitude [and] misplaced priorities not only spell disaster but death for Pakistanis. No one is concerned. No one is bothered. Callousness is shocking,” she wrote.
Last month, the Jinnah Express also hit a freight car near Hyderabad resulting in the deaths of three individuals and injuring several others. Following the incident, Rashid accepted responsibility and sought an apology from the nation.