Pakistan, Oct 31 (Aljazeera) – At least 65 people were killed and 45 others injured after a fire engulfed a train travelling through central Pakistan, completely destroying at least three coaches, officials said.
The accident took place near the town of Liaquatpur, about 150km (93 miles) south of the city of Multan on Thursday morning, Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed told Al Jazeera by telephone.
“The death toll could rise further,” said Muhammad Asfandyar, a local hospital official. He said all of the victims were being treated for burns.
The train was carrying passengers from the southern city of Karachi to Rawalpindi.
“The injured have been taken to the hospital, but unfortunately there is no nearby hospital [with a burn unit] so we are trying to get them by helicopter to Multan,” Ahmed said.
The two affected coaches were “overcrowded”, he added.
Each coach typically holds about 70 passengers, and Ahmed said the death toll could rise.
The fire occurred when passengers used a portable gas-powered stove to prepare breakfast.
“One of the stoves exploded causing the fire and the other one exploded with it,” said Faisal Niaz, an official with the minister’s office.
Ahmed said firefighters had completed their work at the site of the blaze.
“Rail service has been resumed on the tracks and rescue work is completed,” he said. “The fire is under control.”
Pakistan’s aging railway system is still based in many areas on colonial-era infrastructure, and accidents have been a frequent occurrence in recent years.
Security on intercity rail transport is also more lax than other forms of transport.
“A tragedy that could have been avoided but ever since I can recall while travelling by train no baggage check or restrictions enforced,” said Pakistani human rights minister Shireen Mazari following the accident.