At least 21 people have been killed and dozens more injured after two trains carrying hundreds of passengers collided in Karachi during morning rush hour on Thursday, officials said.
Witnesses described watching in horror as one train sped into the city’s Quaidabad Railway Station and rammed into the second, which was stationary, with the roar of the crash swiftly followed by the screams of people trapped inside. Rescuers armed with metal-cutting equipment and heavy cranes managed to pull all the passengers from the twisted wreckage, officials said.
Many were rushed to Karachi’s Jinnah Hospital, where an AFP reporter described horrifying scenes as the injured lay screaming and crying while medics rushed to help them. “I am dying, I am dying, please, please, I am dying,” cried Abdul Ghaffar, 55, as doctors tried to move his legs and hands. He appeared to have multiple injuries, while his children and wife were also wounded and lay on beds nearby.
Other victims appeared too stunned to talk. Many had head and foot injuries, and at least one man had his leg amputated below the knee.
Dr. Kaleem Shaikh, the senior medical officer at Jinnah Hospital, put the death toll at 21 with 65 wounded. Among the dead, he said, were a couple and their twin daughters.
Casualties were still being counted but there could have been a total of up to 1,000 passengers on board the trains when the accident occurred, said Nasir Nazeer, an administrative official in Karachi.
Pakistan’s railways minister claimed the driver had been asleep, but local officials said only that an inquiry has been opened into the cause of the accident.
The accident occurred when the incoming Zakria Express from Multan rammed into the Fareed Express from Lahore, as it waited at Quaidabad Station, also known as Jumma Goth, in Karachi’s Landi neighborhood.
Ajab Gul told AFP he was on his way to his factory job when he witnessed the accident. “Suddenly another train came speeding in and smashed into the parked train,” he said, describing the sound of the crash as “huge.”
“There were clouds of dust and smog. After that we heard screams. People inside the collided trains were screaming and crying.”
Onlookers rushed to their aid, he said, adding that he had helped pull 17 people, including women and children, from the wreckage. But, he added, “there were many other people trapped inside… we could not get them out.”
Train services from Karachi to the rest of the country have been suspended.
Rail accidents are common in Pakistan, which inherited thousands of kilometers of track and trains from former colonial power Britain and has done little to upgrade them in the decades since. The railways sector also suffers from corruption, mismanagement and lack of investment.
Thursday’s crash was the second this year involving the Fareed Express. In February the northbound train hit a van at a crossing in southern Pakistan, killing eight people from the same family. Railway accidents in Pakistan often take place at the unmanned crossings, which frequently lack barriers and sometimes signals.
Separately, at least 13 people were killed and nearly 100 wounded in two pile-ups involving 16 vehicles on the Lahore-Islamabad motorway due to dense smog, local police official Aslam Gondal told AFP. The first collision was between two trucks and a bus, accounting for most of the casualties, while the second pile-up involved multiple cars.