At Least 75 Killed in Fire on Karachi-Rawalpindi Express #Tezgam Train
| IOP Desk - 31 Oct 2019


KARACHI, OCT 31, 2019; In one of the worst rail disasters in Pakistan over a decade, at least 75 passengers died after a fire broke out on a running train in Pakistan on Thursday when a gas canister passengers used to cook breakfast exploded.

Another 40 people have been injured. Pakistani Officials say the number of dead may still rise.

The Karachi-Rawalpindi Express train was travelling from the Pakistani city of Karachi to Rawalpindi, when it caught fire.

The fire destroyed three of the train's carriages – two economy class carriages and one business class, near the town of Rahim Yar Khan in the south of Punjab Province. 

Many passengers were pilgrims heading to Raiwind near Lahore for one of Pakistan's largest annual religious congregations, organised by the Tablighi Jamaat Sunni Muslim missionary movement.

Many of the victims died as they tried to jump off the burning train, according to officials cited in local media.

“The fire was caused by the explosion of a gas cylinder being used by passengers cooking breakfast, said Pakistan’s Minister for Railways, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed while talking to media.

The blaze is thought to have spread to at least three carriages.

The accident happened near the town of Rahim Yar Khan in the south of Punjab province.

"Two cooking stoves blew up. They were cooking, they had [cooking] oil which added fuel to fire," Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said.

Passengers bringing stoves onto trains in order to cook meals on long journeys is a common problem, the minister said. Though it is common to carry food onboard, gas cylinders are banned.

"Some of the victims were so badly burnt they could not be identified, and they would need to use DNA to find out who had died," said District deputy commissioner Jamil Ahmed talking to local media.

Prime Minister Imran Khan said he was "deeply saddened by the terrible tragedy" on Twitter, adding that he had ordered an "immediate inquiry".

The train running from Karachi, across most of Pakistan to Rawalpindi, is the Tezgam - one of Pakistan's oldest and most popular train services. It runs daily and takes 25-and-a-half hours.

After an earlier suspension in the wake of the fire, the railways' minister said services have now been restored.

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