At least 41 people are dead and more than 100 wounded after two trains collided in southern Pakistan on Monday, the state-owned railway said.
Rescue teams shifted the injured to nearby hospitals, where the number of dead was expected to rise, as many were in critical condition, Syed Ijazul Hassan, spokesperson for Pakistan Railways, told dpa.
The crash occurred in the early morning in the southern province of Sindh, when the Millat Express, coming from the port city of Karachi, derailed. The Sir Syed Express train hit it soon afterwards.
The Pakistan army dispatched troops, two helicopters, doctors and paramedics to speed up rescue and relief efforts, Inter Services Public Relations, the military’s media wing, said in a statement.
Rescuers pulled bodies and injured passengers from the wreckage after several hours of intense operation, using heavy machinery and steel cutters, Hassan said.
Footage from Pakistani television broadcasters shows several coaches overturned on the track and local villagers rushing to rescue passengers screaming under the wreckage.
The two trains were carrying more than 1,000 passengers, the spokesperson said.
Reports also suggested that rescuers took a few hours to reach the site and begin their work.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said he was “shocked” by the accident and that he has ordered investigations into “railways safety fault lines.”
Information Minister Fawad Hussain said investigations were under way to find out whether the accident was an act of “terrorism,” or if it took place due to human error or because of a technical fault.
Deadly train accidents are common in Pakistan, where the tracks laid by British colonial rulers of the Indian sub-continent around a century ago have hardly been upgraded.
Besides outdated tracks, bombings by Islamist militants and separatists and weak safety and security systems are the other causes of hundreds of deaths in train accidents every year.