MULTAN: Federal Minister for Railways Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed on Thursday accepted the negligence of the railways staff for allowing the Tableeghi Jamaat passengers to bring gas cylinder with them. Talking to media, he said that those responsible for the negligence will be punished. Regarding demand of his resignation, Rasheed said the people who want him to resign must wait till Sunday. “My resignation is no issue,” he said.The minister also thanked Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa for making arrangements of his air-travel to reach Rahim Yar Khan from Nur Khan Airbase and check rescue and relief activities there.
Rasheed said that 74 people have lost their lives in the tragic incident, while 40 injured are being provided treatment in the hospitals.
He said that an inquiry into the Liaquatpur train incident has been initiated on prime minister s directives which will be completed in 15 days. He added those found involved in committing negligence will be awarded stern punishment.
The railways minister also announced compensation of Rs1.5 million each for the families of Tezgaam train fire victims who lost their lives and Rs 0.5 million each for the injured.
He said that the fire was erupted in train’s economy class by a cylinder blast that occurred in the morning when passengers belonging to a Tableeghi Jamaat were preparing their breakfast. Many people saved their lives by jumping off the train, he added.
He said that bogies severely damaged by the fire have been detached by the rest of the train.
The minister continued that there is a need to strictly follow railway rules as cooking is strictly prohibited in the trains.
The injured are being given best medical treatment at burn units in Kharian and Multan whereas emergency has also been declared in all hospitals of the district, he told.
Earlier today, at least 73 passengers lost their lives and over 40 sustained critical burn wounds when three carriages of a Tezgam Express caught fire due to explosion in gas canisters purportedly used by Tableeghi Jamaat passengers to cook breakfast near Talwari Station in Liaquatpur area of Rahim Yar Khan. The train was bound from Karachi to Rawalpindi.
Television footage showed flames pouring out of the carriages as people could be heard crying in the incident. Many commuters died and several were injured when they jumped from the moving train to escape the flames.
Emergency has been declared in all hospitals of the district. The wounded were rushed to hospitals in the nearby city of Bahawalpur and elsewhere in Rahim Yar Khan district.
At least 12 of the injured persons are in critical condition, whereas 18 dead bodies could not have been identified. Women and children are also amongst the victims. Many of the dead and injured were shifted to DHQ Hospital in Liaqatpur.
Pakistan Railways has stated that people can contact them at helpline number (03008060780) for any required information. PR-Karachi Division has given a helpline number 02199213506 for families of the passengers to contact an emergency center established at Karachi Railway Station.
Meanwhile, firefighters and Rescue 1122 teams extinguished the fire and evacuated other passengers from the train to safe places. The affected carriages were separated from the train. A cooling and search operation was underway under the supervision of Rahim Yar Khan’s deputy commissioner.
Pakistan Army soldiers assisted in relief and rescue efforts, according to Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General (DG) Major General Asif Ghafoor. An army helicopter was also dispatched from Multan in order to rescue the injured, the ISPR statement added further.
Initial reports suggested that at least three carriages (No. 3, 4, 5) of the train caught fire immediately after the cylinder exploded in one carriage when preachers belonging to the Tableeghi Jamaat were cooking breakfast on a gas cylinder.