Nightmare scenes at Pakistan railway crash site
The first thing many passengers heard was a huge bang that shocked them out of their sleep. And what they saw was right out of a nightmare.
“We saw several coaches skidded off the track and there were bodies lying scattered across the railway yard,” said Mohammad Ahmed at the scene of Pakistan’s rail disaster on Wednesday, which left up to 150 people dead.
“As the people in our train were screaming and shouting, there was another deafening explosion,” Ahmed said. “The situation was so tragic that one cannot explain.”
Day dawned on a panorama of twisted green-red-and-white-striped train carriages lying on top of each other at impossible angles, or crushed together like rusted tin cans.
What had happened was a grisly pile-up unprecedented even on Pakistan’s ageing rail network.
At 4am local time on Wednesday, Ahmed was one of hundreds of people crammed into the rickety Quetta Express as it underwent repairs at tiny Sarhad station, about 7km from the remote town of Ghotki.
An express travelling from Lahore to Karachi at 120kph rear-ended the Quetta train, derailing a number of carriages on to another track, where a third locomotive ploughed into the wreckage.
Manzoor Hussain said he stepped off the stationary train for some air.
“I saw the train coming up at speed from the other side and thought I was going to die,” he said.
“After the crash something hit my knee and I passed out. When I came round, I saw bodies everywhere, and heard cries.”
“I was sleeping and when I woke up I found my coach on the other side of the tracks. Everything was a mess and I saw a man with his head blown off,” said another survivor, Asif Ali.
Hours after the smash-up, the backs of two trains remained on the tracks—and in between lay a tangle of ripped metal, train wheels and shattered glass, dotted with pieces of luggage and body parts.
Villagers were the first at the scene, which lies next to lush rice fields, bringing food, tea, water and cold drinks for the victims, followed by soldiers and rescue workers who scrambled over the carnage, looking for survivors.
“Most of the bodies were badly mutilated,” said rescue worker Haider Bakhsh. “They were reduced into pieces of flesh. Many had no limbs.”
Passengers sought frantically for their loved ones, and the sounds of the rescue effort were punctuated by wailing and cries.
“People are crying, fathers are looking for children, husbands for their wives and brothers for their sisters,” one witness said.
Ten hours later, women, many of them holding babies, could still be seen weeping by the side of the wreck.
Some of the bodies recovered from the carriages were left at the side of the tracks hidden under white sheets, which passengers would occasionally lift to see if they could identify a family member or friend.
Above them, cranes had been moved into place and were removing five of the Karachi Express carriages.
The scene was also chaotic at local hospitals, where some of the injured had to be treated on the lawns outside.
Ghotki hospital said it had received 113 bodies and the number of injured there was 78. At least 24 were listed in serious condition.
The hospital would update its list as the casualties continued to pour in.—Sapa-AFP