SUKKUR: “They were screaming and shouting: ‘save us, save us’,” recalls a man who witnessed a deadly crash between a passenger bus and a trailer on the National Highway near Pannu Aqil Sunday morning. At least 42 people – women and children among them – were killed and over two dozen wounded in the high-speed crash. Excavators were used to pull the trailer from the bus which was badly mangled.
With 68 passengers onboard, the bus was en route to Karachi from Dera Ghazi Khan. The driver was trying to overtake the trailer when it veered out of control. The collision was so severe that 25 passengers died on the spot. Rescuers had to cut the bus body with metal cutters to get to the passengers who were trapped between their seats.
Residents said the accident took place around 3:45am while the rescue operation started more than two hours after the crash. They believe many lives would have been saved, had the rescuers reached the crash site on time. The casualties were driven to the Taluka Hospital Pannu Aqil and Civil Hospital Sukkur where a state of emergency was declared. A large number of volunteers had turned up at the hospital to donate blood.
Shahzad Tahir Thaheem, the deputy commissioner of Sukkur, said that over-speeding by the bus was the cause of the accident. The Civil Hospital has a fleet of well-equipped, modern ambulances – but only Edhi vehicles were seen ferrying the casualties to the hospital.
The dead included six members of a family who were travelling on the bus to visit their relatives in Karachi. “We were 10 members of one family. Six of them died,” said 18-year-old Maryam Bibi, weeping. Bibi survived the crash along with her six-year-old brother.
“The dead included 14 children and 13 women,” said Senior Superintendent of Police Fida Hussain Shah, adding that the bus driver was killed on the spot while the driver of the trailer sustained serious injuries. Shah confirmed that reckless driving by the bus driver caused the accident.
Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah was saddened by the loss of precious lives. He went to the site of the accident and announced Rs100,000 compensation for the families of the deceased and Rs25,000 for those injured. He directed the DIG and the commissioner to investigate the accident and submit a report at the earliest. He also directed that the injured should be provided best medical facilities.
Pakistan has one of the world’s worst records for fatal traffic accidents due to poor roads, badly maintained vehicles and reckless driving. The stretch of highway between Ubauro and Naushahro Feroze is in a dilapidated condition. Repair work is ongoing at many places, due to which vehicles have to take a diversion, which often results in accidents.
The dead were identified as Salma, Minhal, Sania, Nafal, Mariam, Fatima, Abdul Wahid, Ghulam Muhammad, Wahid Bux, Mukhtiar Ahmed, Bashir Ahmed, Shahid Mari, Hafeez Lashari, Ehsan, Muhammad Irshad, Shakeela, Ali Raza, Ghulam Farid, Wali Muhammad and Tahira Bibi.
Separately, another passenger coach en route to Rahim Yar Khan from Sukkur overturned on the National Highway at Kalar Goth, near Pano Aqil, Sunday evening. The bus was overtaking another vehicle when the driver lost control and the vehicle overturned. Two persons – Ayaz Ahmed, 25, and Dhani Bux, 10 – were reportedly killed and over 20 others wounded.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 21st, 2014.