Overnight death toll in Pakistan train accident rises to 63 as more bodies found

An express train had crashed into the derailed carriages of another passenger train yesterday

A total of 63 people have now been confirmed killed in yesterday's train crash in Ghotki, Pakistan.

The latest toll was confirmed overnight as rescuers found more bodies trapped in the shattered carriages.

Railway officials used heavy lifting gear to move all the mangled carriages off the track, and found several bodies beneath the engine of the express train that had crashed into a derailed train.

As rescuers continued their search, senior railway officials admitted they had known that section of track was unsafe. Repairs had been postponed because a full upgrade of the line was pending.

Carriages from a northbound Millat Express derailed in Ghotki district in the early hours of Monday morning and fell on the neighbouring track. Minutes later an oncoming Sir Syed Express smashed into the derailed train. The driver had unsuccessfully tried to apply the emergency brake.

Police officials said they expected the death toll to rise, with many passengers succumbing to their injuries in hospital.

Railways minister Azam Khan Swati said the section of the track where the accident took place needed urgent rehabilitation. Still, no decision had been made on whether to repair the track or to wait for a replacement as part of a Chinese investment programme.

The Chinese investment, as part of Beijing's Belt and Road initiative to build a modern-day Silk Road, would have upgraded Pakistan's trains, but the plans have been delayed in a disagreement over financing.

A soldier stands guard while railway workers removing wreckage to clear the track at the site of a train collision in the Ghotki district, southern Pakistan, Tuesday, June 8, 2021. The death toll from a deadly train accident in southern Pakistan jumped to dozens on Tuesday after rescuers pulled a dozen more bodies from crumpled cars of two trains that collided on a dilapidated railway track a day ago, an official said, as rescue work continued even 24 hours after the incident to find any survivors. (AP Photo/Fareed Khan)

"Whether we launch new trains or not, we see ourselves at the losing end," the Dawn newspaper cited the minister as saying. "There is also confusion whether to rehabilitate or replace this track with a new one."

Officials said that bereaved families would be compensated in line with the state-owned rail company's standard rate.

The families of the dead will each receive 1.5m rupees ($9,643) while those injured will receive up to 300,000 rupees ($1,928).

Yesterday, Prime Minister Imran Khan ordered an immediate investigation into the crash, while his political opponents were quick to attack his failure to improve the safety of the overworked railway network.

Pakistan's trains have suffered from decades of underinvestment under successive governments and the accident was at least the fifth deadly rail incident since Mr Khan took office three years ago.

The former cricketer said he was “shocked by the horrific train accident at Ghotki early this morning” and was ordering a “comprehensive investigation into railway safety faultlines”.

Senator Sherry Rehman, an opposition leader with the Pakistan Peoples Party, called for the resignation of the railways minister.

Shehbaz Sharif, the leader of the opposition in the national assembly, said earlier the railways were “in an utter shambles today in terms of safety and finances”.

In February 2020, at least 19 people were killed when a train collided with a passenger bus near Sindh’s Rohri. Three months earlier, more than 70 had died in a fire aboard a moving train after carriages caught alight near Rahim Yar Khan in Punjab.

Troops had joined the rescue efforts on Monday, according to a statement from the military's information wing.

Military doctors, as well as paramedics and engineers, were at the site, and a specialist search team was flown in by helicopter from Rawalpindi.