Cylinders burst as people cook food on Pakistan train; 73 killed

Updated: Nov 01, 2019, 09:19 IST | Agencies | Lahore

Tezgam Express was on its way to Lahore from Karachi when the fire broke out early morning, gutting three bogies, which had over 200 passengers

Firefighters work to cool down the burnt-out train carriages after it caught fire near Rahim Yar Khan in Punjab province on Thursday. Pics/AFP
Firefighters work to cool down the burnt-out train carriages after it caught fire near Rahim Yar Khan in Punjab province on Thursday. Pics/AFP

Lahore: A massive fire broke out on a moving train in Pakistan's eastern Punjab province on Thursday after two gas cylinders exploded while some passengers were cooking breakfast, killing at least 73 people, mostly Islamic preachers travelling to attend a religious congregation.

The train, Tezgam Express, was on its way to Lahore from Karachi when the fire broke out early morning, gutting three bogies, which had over 200 passengers, including women and children, at Liaquatpur near Rahim Yar Khan, some 400 kms from Lahore, authorities said. District Emergency Officer RYK Baqir Hussain has confirmed that 73 passengers lost their lives in the fire.

Firefighters work to cool down the burnt-out train carriages after it caught fire near Rahim Yar Khan in Punjab province on Thursday

Most deaths occurred from people jumping off the train, the authorities said, adding that the toll could rise further as more than 40 passengers have suffered severe burn injuries. Railway Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad said most of the victims belonged to the Tableeghi Jamaat (Islamic preachers), who were going to Lahore to attend a major annual congregation at Raiwind.

The railways minister said two gas stoves carried by some passengers blew up when they were preparing breakfast on the speeding train in violation of rules. "Some of the passengers started making breakfast on small gas cylinders they brought with them when they exploded and the fire engulfed the three coaches of the train," he said. The Tableeghi Jamaat office-bearers, however, dismissed the railway minister's claim, saying the explosion took place because of "short circuit".

"Some injured passengers said that they had told the train officials late on Wednesday night about the short circuit smell but no attention was paid and on Thursday morning the explosion took place," the Jamaat said. Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed his grief over the incident and directed authorities to provide the best medical treatment to the injured. The authorities said they were still trying to identify the victims.

40
No. of passengers who have suffered burn injuries

10
No. of fire brigade units that were rushed to the spot

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