ISLAMABAD - Officials in Pakistan say at least 74 people have been killed and dozens more injured after fire engulfed a passenger train near Pakistan's Rahimyar Khan city in eastern Punjab province.
The train was traveling from the southern city of Karachi to Rawalpindi when the disaster struck. Television footage showed flames pouring out of the train's carriages, sending huge clouds of black smoke into the sky above. Authorities say many of the victims died when they jumped from the moving train to escape the inferno.
Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed after visiting the site of the accident told reporters the fire was caused when two gas stoves used by passengers to cook breakfast exploded. Gas stoves are banned on Pakistan trains, but the rule is rarely enforced on the overcrowded trains.
The minister acknowledged only seven major railway stations across the country were equipped with scanners to detect and prevent passengers from carrying banned items with them.
At least 40 other passengers were injured. Many of the passengers were Muslim missionaries headed to a conference organized by the Tablighi-e-Jamaat movement.
Prime Minister Imran Khan posted a message on Twitter saying he was "deeply saddened" by the tragedy, and offering his condolences to the victims's families and prayers for the "speedy recovery" of the injured. Khan said he has ordered an immediate investigation of the incident.
Train accidents are common in Pakistan, where the railways have seen decades of decline due to corruption, mismanagement and lack of investment. They often take place at the unmanned crossings, which frequently lack barriers and sometimes signals.
In July, at least 23 people were killed in the same district when a passenger train coming from the eastern city of Lahore rammed into a goods train that had stopped at a crossing.
Source: Voice of America