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At least 71 killed as deadly fire engulfs Pakistan train Open in fullscreen

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At least 71 killed as deadly fire engulfs Pakistan train

Witnesses reported seeing passengers jump out of the train to escape. [Getty]

Date of publication: 31 October, 2019

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Pakistan's poorly maintained, colonial-era railway system has seen several accidents in recent decades. This is the worst such accident in the last 15 years.
A devastating fire swept through a train in Pakistan on Thursday, killing at least 71 people.

Government officials said that the fire was triggered by the explosion of a gas canister that passengers were using to cook breakfast.

Three of the train's carriages were destroyed near the town of Rahim Yar Khan in the southern part of Punjab. It was travelling from the southern port of Karachi to Rawalpindi, with many passengers going to a religious conference organised by the Tablighi Jamaat Sunni Muslim missionary movement, Reuters reported.

"Two stoves blew up when people were cooking breakfast, the presence of kerosene with the passengers in the moving train further spread the fire," the Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid Ahmed told Geo television.

People illegally bringing stoves onto trains to prepare their meals on long journeys is a common problem, the minister said.

Many of the dead were killed when they leapt from the moving train to escape the flames, he added.

This is the worst disaster on Pakistan's colonial era railways system in nearly 15 years.

Also read: The only way we can resist: Cricket, politics and identity in Kashmir

Several survivors however questioned whether the fire was sparked by a cooking accident, saying they believed it was caused by a short-circuit in the train's electrical system.

The deputy commissioner of the district Jameel Ahmed said that many of the victims had been burned beyond recognition, adding that authorities would need to conduct DNA tests to identify the victims.

Nearly 40 people were injured, many with serious burns, he said.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said he was deeply saddened by the accident, saying on Twitter that he had "ordered an immediate inquiry to be completed on an urgent basis."

Pakistan's colonial-era rail network is poorly maintained and has fallen into disrepair, leading to several accidents over the last decades. Around 130 people were killed in 2005 when a train rammed into another at a station in Sindh province, and a third train hit the wreckage.

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