14 killed as train falls into canal in Pakistan

Derailed trainAt least 14 people including a senior army officer were killed on Thursday when a train carrying soldiers fell into a canal in Pakistan following the partial collapse of a bridge, as a government minister hinted at sabotage.

The incident occurred near the eastern town of Wazirabad in the country’s most populous province Punjab as it headed to the garrison town of Kharian.

A statement issued by the military said four carriages derailed as the train, which was also carrying military hardware, crossed Chanawan Bridge.

Military spokesman Asim Bajwa’s office in a statement late Thursday said that 14 bodies had been recovered, including the train driver and the search for five missing people was still continuing.

Bajwa earlier tweeted that “Lieutenant Colonel Amir”, the commander of a unit, also died in the accident.

A rescue mission involving rubber dinghies, helicopters and divers was launched, live TV footage showed.

Speaking to reporters, Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique said the incident may not have been accidental.

“There appears to be some other hand or reason. Apparently it could be due to a blast or deliberate loosening of the fishplates,” he said, adding a heavier train had crossed the same bridge an hour earlier without a problem.

“This bridge was inspected in December and January and it had no issues,” he continued.

Pakistan inherited thousands of miles of track and trains from the former colonial power, Britain, but the railways have seen decades of decline due to corruption, mismanagement and under-investment.

In May, seven people including the ambassadors of Norway and the Philippines were killed after a Pakistani military helicopter crashed on its way to the country’s mountainous north where the diplomats were set to inspect tourism projects.

The Indonesian ambassador later succumbed to his injuries after being flown to a hospital in Singapore.

 

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