GUJRANWALA: At least 18 people, including a senior army officer and the driver of the train were killed when rail carriages full of soldiers and military hardware fell into a canal in Gujranwala on Thursday following the partial collapse of a bridge.
The accident occurred near the eastern town of Wazirabad in Punjab as it headed to the garrison town of Kharian. A search for five missing people continued late into the night, of which four have been found.
Officials gather near bogies of the train as they search for five missing people. PHOTO: AFP
Search operation continues
Search operation for the missing persons resumed early Friday morning following the funeral prayers for the deceased in Multan and Lahore respectively. DG ISPR Asim Bajwa confirmed in his tweet.
Train Accident Update:Total bodies recovered till now 17.Search continues— Gen(R) Asim Saleem Bajwa (@AsimBajwaISPR) July 3, 2015
Lieutenant General Ghayoor Muhammad has also reached the site and Pak Army's investigative team has started collecting evidence.
A statement issued by the military said four carriages derailed as the train crossed Chanawan Bridge.
DG ISPR Asim Bajwa tweeted that eight bodies, including "Lieutenant Colonel Amir", the commander of a unit, had so far been recovered.
Update:Initial investigation,Railway Bridge collapsed.shaheed confirmed 12 including Comd of unit,Lt.col Amir.8 bodies found.Rescue contnues— Gen(R) Asim Saleem Bajwa (@AsimBajwaISPR) July 2, 2015
Rescue workers rescue a passenger from a stream. PHOTO: AFP
"Almost 200 people were travelling on the train," said SSP Waqas Nazir, adding that the canal has been closed to carryout the rescue operation.
Read: Mass transport: Over 100 injured as train derails near Rajanpur
"There were around 300 passengers on board," Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique told Reuters.
"It is too early to say about the reason for the mishap. Rescue work is under way."
Defending the infrastructure, Rafique said "This bridge was inspected in December and January and it had no issues," hinting that there could be some other hand or reason involved.
"Apparently it could be due to a blast or deliberate loosening of the fishplates," he said, adding that a heavier train had crossed the same bridge just an hour before the ill-fated train without any problem.
Rafique has ordered a four-member committee to be formed to investigate the cause of the accident within the next 72 hours.
As many as 80 people had been rescued, a military official said.
Television images of the scene showed several carriages partly submerged in the canal.
An army helicopter takes part in a rescue operation after train compartments fell into a canal following the partial collapse of a bridge in Wazirabad, Punjab. PHOTO: AFP
However, a senior military official said the army suspected sabotage.
"We suspect that this was an act of sabotage... The planks on the rail were tampered with," the official said, requesting anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the media.
The collapse also raises concerns about the safety of infrastructure. Several TV channels reported that the bridge had been marked as "extremely dangerous".
Train derails over canal near Gujranwala...many feared dead pic.twitter.com/YuYxJ2GEsI— amجad mahمood (@Flyingtastic) July 2, 2015
Funeral prayers for the deceased were offered in Gujranwala late on Thursday evening. Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif also attended the prayers.
Further, General Raheel Sharif also visited the CMH Gujranwala and inquired about the health of those injured.
Meanwhile, funeral prayers for Major Adil were offered at 9:30am in Lahore's Cavalry ground. Senior army officers including Corps Commander Major General Naveed Zaman also attended the prayers to pay respect to the deceased.
Guard of honour was also presented to the deceased.
Later on, funeral prayers were also offered on Friday for Lieutenant Col Amir Jadoon and his wife and two children in Abottabad, who were travelling in the ill fated train.
Lieutenant Col Amir was the eldest among his five siblings. His two brothers are serving Majors in the Army while another brother is serving in the Pakistan Air Force. His sister is settled in the US.
Amir’s father Col (retd) Sabir Jadoon had passed away a couple of year ago. Hi maternal uncle is DIG Police (retd) Sarfraz Khan Jadoon.
Read: Accident: Four die, five injured as train derails
PM takes notice
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expressed concerns for those injured in the accident.
He directed the authorities concerned to mobilise all resources to rescue the injured and restore the track.
Further, the premier directed medical aid to be given to the injured and assure safe return to their destinations.
Investigation team constituted
An investigation team has been constituted consisting of members of the Pakistan Army as well as people from the Railways Ministry.
The team was constituted under the guidance of Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique and aims to produce a report probing into the accident.
The team will consist of seven people and is expected to produce the report by tomorrow (Saturday).