LAHORE: At least 20 members of Peshawar’s Sikh community lost their lives on Friday when the Shah Hussain Express train crashed into their van as it attempted to cross train tracks near Sheikhupura, police said.
According to the Sheikhupura district police officer, at least 20 were killed and eight have been injured.
Twenty-two members of a family had been traveling in a Toyota van from Peshawar to Nankana Sahib to attend a funeral, initial reports said.
Rescue officials said the driver of the van had tried to take the path from an unsecured railway crossing instead of the road when the vehicle collided with the Lahore-bound train near the Farooqabad Railway Station.
Evacuee Trust Property Board’s Deputy Secretary Shrines, Imran Gondal, said that all Sikh travellers were Pakistani nationals and residents of Peshawar.
Gondal said that the bodies of the accident victims were being shifted to Mayo Hospital Lahore, while the wounded are hospitalised in Sheikhupura and Lahore.
A few among the wounded are reportedly in a critical condition and receiving treatment at District Headquarters Hospital in Sheikhupura.
According to BBC, all the deceased are said to be from one family.
Van driver’s ‘negligence’
The Sheikhupura district police officer said that “the accident was caused by the (van) driver’s negligence”.
He said that the driver “tried to go over the tracks in a hurry” after the crossing was shut.
Chairman Punjabi Sikh Sangat Gopal Singh also said the driver “is the culprit in the accident”.
“The driver left the main road and tried to cross the track,” Singh said.
It is not yet clear whether the driver survived the accident.
PM Imran, President Alvi express grief
Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed grief over the loss of precious lives in the train-coach accident and directed authorities to provide the best possible medical treatment to the wounded.
Following the accident, President Dr Arif Alvi also expressed grief over the loss of lives, urging the officials to provide best facilities to the affectees of the incident.
Chief Minister Punjab Usman Buzdar also expressed sorrow, saying that he deeply sympathises with the victims. He gave directions for provision of the best treatment to the wounded.
After the accident, the district administration also established a control room at the deputy commissioner’s office.
Series of train accidents
Train collision incidents have been alarmingly common in Pakistan.
On February 28, at least 19 people were killed when a train collided with a passenger bus near Rohri in Sindh.
Last year, on July 11, a Quetta-bound train had collided with a cargo train near Sadiqabad in Punjab, killing 24 people and injuring over 100. The accident was later found to be caused by a delay in switching the train tracks.
In a similar incident, 12 children had been injured when a passenger train crashed into a school van near Narowal, Punjab, in December 2018. Local witnesses had said the accident happened due to dense fog and because the gate at the crossing was left open.
Apart from these three collision incidents in the past two years alone, scores more have perished in train derailments, fires and explosions during the same period.