LAHORE                -         At least twenty two got killed and 7 sustained critical injuries when a train hit a coaster at an unmanned level crossing near Farooqabad, some 14 km from Sheikhupura on Friday.

According to sources, people from Pakistani Sikh community were returning to Peshawar after attending a marriage ceremony at Nankana Sahib, when Lahore-bound 43-Up Shah Hussain Express hit their coaster at an unmanned level crossing at Jatri road. As a result, 20 people died on the spot while nine others suffered critical wounds.

Azhar Mashwani, the focal person on digital media to Punjab chief minister, said on Twitter that as many as 30 people were travelling on the coaster from Nankana Sahib to Peshawar, of whom 13 males and seven females died in the accident. The deceased included 19 Sikh pilgrims and the driver of the vehicle, he said.

Ten people received minor injuries who were shifted to District Headquarters Hospital, Sheikhupura. The bodies were being shifted to Mayo Hospital Lahore, said Mashwani.

The accident occurred around 1:30pm as the Lahore-bound train, coming from Karachi, crashed into a coaster at an unmanned level crossing between Farooqabad and Bahalekay, a press release issued by the Pakistan Railways (PR) said.

“The crossing was unmanned and the driver of the van took a hasty decision by driving onto the tracks,” PR spokeswoman Quratul Ain told AFP, adding that the passengers were all Sikh pilgrims.

Local police spokesman Wajid Abbas told AFP the deceased passengers were all from the same family. The train passengers remained safe in the accident.

Rescue officials from both Railways and Rescue 1122 arrived at the scene and provided first aid to the injured. All divisional officials were also directed to reach the site of the crash, which led to the railway track being blocked for an hour and 15 minutes

Following the accident, the divisional engineer was suspended by the railways’ management, the PR statement added.

Meanwhile, PR Chief Executive Officer Dost Ali Laghari has set up a committee consisting of three officers to investigate the incident. The committee would present its initial inquiry report to the CEO by tomorrow “so that it can be determined which side was at fault”, said the press release.

“Action will be taken in accordance with the law against whomever is held responsible for this accident,” the PR statement said.

It added that in the case of an unmanned level crossing, “it is the responsibility of the road user to carefully see the railway track and then cross”.

“Pakistan Railways installs warning boards at such unmanned level crossings but people crossing [often] do not look at them due to which similar tragedies have occurred in the past as well,” the press release stated, noting that such incidents besides causing losses of life and property also “bring a bad name to the Railways”.

Sheikhupura DPO Mohammad Ghazi Salahuddin, while talking to reporters, said that women and children were among the 20 people who were killed in the collision.

According to the DPO, the passengers in the coaster were Sikh Yatrees who were returning from Nankana Sahib — where they had gone to visit their relatives — to Peshawar. He added that there were two more coaches that took a different route and were safely on their way.

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday took notice of the incident and directed an immediate review of the Standard Operating Procedures regarding operational safety mechanism of Pakistan Railways.

Expressing deep sorrow and grief over the tragic accident, the Prime Minister also directed the concerned authorities to ensure facilitation and care for the families of the victims.

“My condolences and prayers go to the families of the deceased,” the Prime Minister said in a tweet. He said he was deeply saddened over the accident and directed that proper medical care be provided to the injured.

Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Dr Arif Alvi expressed deep sorrow and grief over the loss of lives. The President and the Prime Minister in their separate messages conveyed their heartfelt condolences to the families of those killed in the tragic incident. They also directed for provision of best medical treatment to the injured.

Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz also expressed grief and sorrow over  the loss of lives in the accident at Sheikhupura. In a statement, he expressed his heartfelt condolences to the grieved families of Sikh Yatris over the loss of precious lives. He also prayed for the early recovery of the injured.

Chairman Senate Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani and Deputy Senate Saleem Mandviwalla expressed deep sorrow and grief over the loss of lives. The Chairman directed for providing best possible medical facilities to the injured, said a press release.

Leader of the House Dr Waseem Shahzad and leader of the Opposition Raja Zafarul Haq also grieved over the tragic accident. They also conveyed their heartfelt condolences to the families of those killed in the incident.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Railways has suspended the concerned Divisional Engineer following Friday’s horrific train-bus collision near Farooqabad in Sheikhupura.

According to a press release issued by Pakistan Railways Headquarters in Lahore on Friday, Railways Chief Executive Dost Ali Leghari constituted a committee comprising three senior railways’ officers to look into the accident of Shah Hussain Express and ascertain its causes.

The committee will submit its report about the rail accident tomorrow [Saturday].

President Dr. Arif Alvi, Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed deep grief and sorrow over the loss of precious lives in the train accident in Sheikhupura.

In their separate statements, the President directed to provide best medical facilities to injured persons of the accident.

The Prime Minister Imran Khan in his condolence message expressed deep sorrow over the accident which resulted in the death of at least 20 people, mainly Sikh pilgrims returning from Nankana Sahib and prayed for the families of the deceased to bear the irreparable loss.

The Prime Minister also directed relevant authorities to provide proper faciliate all the families.

Meanwhile, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz also expressed grief over the loss of precious lives in the incident and offered condolence with the bereaved families of deceased Sikh Yatris.

He also prayed for early recovery of injured in this tragic incident.

COAS expresses grief over loss of precious lives in tragic train accident

Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Friday expressed grief over the loss of precious lives in Friday’s tragic train accident near Sheikhupura.

The COAS expressed heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families. “Condolences to the bereaved families, prayers for early recovery of injured”, Pakistan Army’s Inter-Services Public Relations quoted the military chief as having said.