Pakistan News

Mixed signals, wrong track and innocent victims

Mixed signals, wrong track and innocent victims

KARACHI: “No one could have survived this,” screamed Shakila Bibi on seeing the crushed bogies of Fareed Express at the Landhi station on Thursday, some three hours after the ill-fated train was hit by Zakaria Express from behind. The accident left 20 dead and over 65 injured.

“My sister must be dead,” she wept as her other sister Nafisa tried comforting her. But Shakila said she couldn’t forgive herself for getting off at Hyderabad, leaving her sister behind to travel to Karachi on her own.

Meanwhile, the tracks at the accident site were being cleared. There were cranes and workers with shovels and pickaxes all busy with damage control. People living in the small houses along the railway track watched the work being carried out. “In the absence of any other help at the time, we became the first responders as we were the first ones on the scene as a result of living right here,” said Taj Khan.

“It was 7.25am, I was getting ready to leave for work when we I heard a loud explosion. It shook our entire home,” he said. “I with some other neighbourhood men ran outside to see what had happened. It was very dark outside with dust everywhere. But once our eyes got adjusted to the darkness, we realised that one train had run into the other. We rushed in that direction to help the people trapped inside. Most of the injured belonged to the train that was waiting at the Landhi station,” he said.

Saeed Rahman, Taj’s next door neighbour, said he also ran to the railway officials at Landhi telling them to call for help. “But they seemed frozen. They just looked around helplessly not seeming to know what to do. Then four Edhi ambulances arrived. We transferred three to four injured in each ambulance, which took them to the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre.”

Zawar Hussain, a resident of Shireen Jinnah Colony here, was coming back home in the ill-fated Fareed Express with his 34 family members on Thursday morning after having attended a wedding in Vehari when the speeding Zakaria Express crashed into their train.

“We were stationary and waiting to be transferred to the other track at the Landhi station when it all happened. It was only supposed to be a 10-minute stopover before proceeding to Cantt,” said injured Zawar, now admitted to the JPMC. Seven members of the family, including Zawar, were admitted to various wards in the hospital.

Zawar’s nephew Nawab said some of them were travelling in bogie number eight and some in the last bogie, number 16, which took the brunt of the collision. “I leaped off bogie eight the moment we were hit and so did my brother and other cousins. I twisted my ankle in the process but still I ran as fast as I could back to the last bogie,” he said.

There he found a few people who had come to help after hearing the crash. “We pulled out the dead and injured from the last bogie. This was how we were able to rescue my uncle, aunt and cousins,” he said. “Our money, luggage and other belongings are all gone.”

Zawar’s youngest child, Naveed Iqbal, a student of class two, also occupied a bed across him in the emergency ward. In the next female ward lay Zawar’s wife, Parween, his daughter Asma with a fractured neck, and his daughter-in-law Saeed Bibi with his three-year-old grandson Rizwan, too. Two of his sons were also admitted to the orthopaedic ward with many bones broken.

Malka Bibi, another injured patient in the female emergency section, who was travelling from Mailsi in Vehari, said that suddenly everything on the berths above with the berths fell on them in bogie 16. “This was followed by our bogie being dragged back. I was very confused at first. Then I heard groans and children crying. I used all my strength to get myself out from the mess I was buried under. I made my way to the children. There were four of them. I got them all out,” she said.

Imtiaz Bibi, a resident of Qayyumabad, said she was travelling with her five-year-old daughter in bogie 11. “My little girl Zainab was looking outside from the window, waiting for the train to start moving again. The collision sent her flying out of that window. It saved her life. But I was stuck inside until help arrived. Some people were also trapped in the bathroom,” she said. “Surprisingly, the bogie right behind us, bogie number 10, was completely crushed even though it wasn’t hit directly.

“I only remember a very loud explosion. I must have backed out then as I woke up in hospital here,” said Ghulam Shabbir from Kahror Pacca, Lodhran.

Outside the JPMC morgue, one ran into Shakila Bibi and Nafisa Bibi still looking for their third sister among the dead. Someone suggested they search for her among the injured. That was when they started their search inside the hospital. Suraiya, the third sister, was eventually discovered in the orthopaedic ward on the second floor with a fractured vertebrae.

Dr Seemin Jamali, head of emergency at the JPMC, said they initially received 18 bodies many of whom were yet to be identified. There was also a three-year-old girl among the dead. They also got 65 injured of whom 15 were children aged between five and 18. Some 50 among the injured were male and 15 female. Two of the injured, she said, later died.

Published in Dawn, November 4th, 2016

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