73 People Killed After Gas Fire Breaks Out During Breakfast on Pakistan Train: Reports
The fire was reportedly started after gas stoves exploded as passengers cooked breakfast
At least 73 people were killed and 40 injured after a fast-moving fire broke out on a train in Pakistan as passengers cooked breakfast, according to multiple reports.
Three cars full of passengers were engulfed in flames around 6:30 a.m. near a station at Liaquat Pur, a city in the southern province of Punjab, The New York Times reported.
Though gas cylinders are not allowed on the trains, the blaze is believed to have been begun when two contraband stoves exploded as passengers made breakfast, said Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, according to Reuters.
The train continued to speed along for about 20 minutes after the fire broke out, leading many to jump off, the Associated Press reported.
“People started frantically screaming and shouting. They were begging for the train to stop. Train speed further fanned the fire,” injured passenger Muhammad Tariq told the Times. “Had the train stopped immediately, the death toll would’ve been less.”
Kaleem Ullah, an official with the district’s emergency services, said that 43 people were injured, and 11 remained in critical condition, according to the AP.
Eleven people with severe burns were flown in a military helicopter to a hospital in nearby Multan, the Times reported.
Seventy-three people were reported dead by Reuters and the Washington Post.
The AP described Pakistan’s rail system as “dilapidated, poorly maintained and mismanaged,” and the Times reported that passengers had deliberately ignored the guard’s command not to use gas stoves.
“We could hear people crying and screaming for help. I thought we would die,” survivor Chaudhry Shujaat told the AP. “The next car was on fire. We felt so helpless.”
Many of the passengers were on their way to a protest in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, while many others were part of an Islamic missionary group known as Tableeqi-e-Jamaat, the AP reported.
Ahmed said the missionaries were carrying cooking oil with them that further fueled the fire.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan wrote on Twitter he was “deeply saddened by the terrible tragedy,” and offered condolences to the victims and their families.
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He added that he had launched an investigation “to be completed on an urgent basis.”
Pakistan President Arif Alvi also expressed “profound grief” on Twitter, and wrote that he was praying “for the departed souls and the bereaved families.”
The fire is the worst disaster on Pakistan’s railway system in nearly 15 years, Reuters reported.