At least 74 people have been killed and dozens more injured after a cooking gas cylinder explosion in a crowded train with passengers in central Pakistan Thursday, a regional minister said.
Television footage shows firecrackers littering three cabins when a passenger was heard crying in the incident, occurred in a rural area of central Punjab.
Some passengers, many of whom were on their way to a rally in eastern Lahore, were having breakfast when two gas cylinders exploded, said Ali Nawaz, a senior Pakistan Railways official.
Many Pakistani carry food on the long journey by train but the use of gas cylinders is prohibited, Nawaz said.
Pakistan Railway Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed later told the media that it was a ‘mistake’ to allow gas cylinders into the train.
“A gas cylinder exploded and I didn’t know how, fires were everywhere. I jumped off the train to save myself. There was a long line behind me, they refused to push each other”, said a rescued passenger, Muhammad Imran.
Liaguatpur medical superintendent Muhammad Nadeem Zia said some people died from injuries to the head after jumping off a moving train. He said at least 44 passengers were injured.
Regional Health Minister Yasmin Rashid initially said more than 65 people were killed and more than 40 injured but the casualties was later raised by Kaleem Ullah, a district emergency services officer who said 74 people were killed while 43 others were injured, 11 of which were critical.
The injured were rushed to a hospital in a town near Bahawalpur and elsewhere in the district, he added, adding that only 18 bodies could be identified.
“Deeply saddened by this heartbreaking tragedy, my heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims and pray for the injured victim to recover quickly. I have ordered an immediate investigation”, Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Twitter.