ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Two express trains collided Monday morning in southern Pakistan, killing at least 32 passengers and injuring 80 others.
Most passengers were asleep when the Millat Express, a passenger train traveling from the southern port city of Karachi to Sargodha in Punjab Province, derailed and crashed over the tracks. Within minutes, another passenger train, the Sir Syed Express, which was en route from Lahore in East Pakistan to Karachi, crashed into the overturned wagons of the first train, leaving a mutilated wreck, local news outlets reported.
The collision occurred between the train stations in Daharki and Raiti in southern Sindh province, said Nazia Jabeen, a spokeswoman for Pakistan Railways.
A rescue operation is underway, said Ms. Jabeen. Several of the injured were admitted to hospitals in Rohri, Pannu Aqil and Sukkur counties, she said, adding that the death toll is likely to rise.
The Pakistani army said military doctors and medical personnel from a nearby base were involved in the relief effort. The army and paramilitary troops were already at the scene of the accident, and two army helicopters took part in evacuations.
Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Twitter that he was “shocked by the terrible train crash” and had ordered a “comprehensive investigation into the railway safety breaches”.
Azam Khan Swati, the Pakistani Railways minister, said a high-level investigation had been ordered to investigate the cause of the collision. “It is too early to say whether the accident was due to sabotage or the dilapidated condition of the railway line,” said Swati.
Pakistan has a miserable train safety record and the system is plagued by corruption and mismanagement. Successive governments’ promises to revise the system went unfulfilled. Mr. Khan, who came to power in 2018, had vowed to modernize the system’s poorly maintained signaling system and aging tracks, and to maintain its security mechanisms.
But train accidents also occurred frequently under Mr. Khan’s government. A train fire in 2019 killed more than 70 people in one of the worst train accidents in recent years.
In 2005, three trains crashed in a fatal chain reaction after a train driver misread a signal, killing at least 127 people and injuring hundreds more in southern Pakistan. At least 210 people died and 700 others were injured when a train struck an empty freight train on a 500-mile night journey south of Multan to Karachi. The officials blamed a wrongly set switch.