Fire on Tezgam Express caused by cylinder explosion: minister
Seventy-three people were killed early Thursday morning as the Tezgam Express caught fire near Rahim Yar Khan, according to rescue officials. Punjab Health Minister Yasmin Rashid put the death toll at 66.
As of 2pm, 15 victims have been identified.
The fire spread to three bogies of the moving train. It was heading to Rawalpindi from Karachi and was near the Tanwari Railway Station when the fire erupted. The rescue operation has been completed. Ten fire trucks were used to extinguish the blaze. The tracks have been cleared and railway operations restored.
Over 40 people were injured in the fire, according to rescue officials. Deputy Commissioner Jamil Ahmed Jamil said some injuries were reported because people jumped out of the train and others because of the fire.
There were 207 people in the three bogies and a total of 933 people on the train. Two economy class and one business class bogies were destroyed in the fire, according to the Railways DTCO, who said there were 77 people in one economy bogey and 76 in the other. There were 54 passengers in the business class bogey.
The two economy class bogeys had been booked by a man named Ameer Hassan. The victims were mostly from Mirpurkhas, Karachi and Hyderabad. A large number of the Tableeghi Jamaat members were from Mirpurkhas.
Rescue officials say the fire was caused by a cylinder exploding on the train. According to the Railways minister, members of the Tableeghi Jamaat booked the two economy class bogies and had brought gas cylinders to cook food. They were preparing breakfast when it exploded.
The health minister said that 40 injured people have been taken to Liaquatpur while 18 have been shifted to a hospital in Rahim Yar Khan. Both hospitals have plastic surgery facilities and emergencies have been declared at both, she said.
There are 12 bodies that are in a condition that could be identified, said Rashid, adding that the rest will be identified via DNA samples. Prime Minister Imran Khan has ordered that the people injured in the fire be provided top of the line medical care.
Nine people have been taken to Bahawalpur’s Victoria Hospital — two women and seven men. They are all reportedly in critical condition.
An emergency has been declared at the hospital and 35 beds have been cleared for them. Ten beds in each of the hospital’s four surgical wards are ready for the patients but the hospital doesn’t have a burns unit or trauma centre. If the patients are in very bad condition, they will be referred to Multan.
Bahawalpur is 110km from the site of the accident and Multan is another 200km from Bahawalpur.
Of the 15 people identified, most are from Mirpurkhas. Several bodies are at Rahim Yar Khan’s Sheikh Zayed Hospital and will be identified via DNA testing. There are still some bodies at the THQ Hospital in Liaquatpur. Seven patients were transported to Multan via air ambulance and another nine are on their way. Most patients have been transferred to Bahawalpur, Rahim Yar Khan and Multan. A camp has also been set up at THQ Liaquatpur for victims’ families.
Other passengers on the train say they smelt gas on the train and informed the Railway officials but they didn’t do anything.
Federal Railway Minister Sheikh Rasheed told SAMAA TV that the fire broke out at 6:30am. There were two coaches booked by members of the Tableeghi Jamaat who were going to a gathering in Raiwind, he said, adding that they had brought two cylinders with them and stoves to cook food. One cylinder exploded, triggering the second one as well, said the minister. Their two coaches and a business class coach caught fire, he said, confirming “between 40 and 50 deaths”. We have asked the army for help and they have arrived because we have no private ambulances to take them to the hospital, he said. “There are no burns wards there, nor are there any in Rawalpindi or Islamabad.”
The minister said the Railways department has scanning machines at only seven stations, defending that they cost hundreds of thousands and his ministry can’t afford more. It was an accident and we will have to take notice of things like this, he said.
Despite food being provided on the train, people bring their own things and sometimes bring stoves, he admitted. We will be more strict, he said. But when asked why these precautions are being taken after the deaths of almost 50 people, he said, “It’s our mistake and their’s too”.
The solution is that we either close the 519 small stations across Pakistan or do something else, he said. But when he was told that would be detrimental for the people, he said “Passengers always try to sneak stuff on the trains”. He accepted that it was their job to stop people from bringing dangerous items aboard trains but called it “irresponsibility” not failure. He vowed that they will take action but refused to specify what.
“People don’t fear the law, try to understand,” he said. He also said that when there is a capacity of 100 people, over 120 people will come. What can we do, he asked.
Forty people on the train were from the Bismillah Mosque in Mirpurkhas. At the mosque, leaders have confirmed that three people have been killed and 11 injured. The families of the 40 people are at the mosque, hoping for word of their loved ones.
The Railways Ministry has set up several helplines for people to call for information.
Multan DCO 03314403720
Sukkur Control Room 0719310087
Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah has said that his government is available and ready to provide any assistance needed. He has expressed his grief over the incident and ordered the Hyderabad deputy commissioner to contact the Rahim Yar Khan deputy commissioner and coordinate with them. A large number of passengers were from Hyderabad. He has also ordered the setting up of a special desk at the Hyderabad deputy commissioner’s office to help families of the victims.