12 killed as army train falls into canal in Pakistan

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Islamabad, July 2: At least 12 people were killed, over 100 others injured and at least four people went missing when four coaches of an army train fell into a canal while crossing a bridge in Pakistan's eastern city of Gujranwala on Thursday afternoon, media and officials said.

Dawn News said the bridge collapsed when the army special train was crossing it in Janki Chatta area of Gujranwala, a district located in the country's Punjab province.

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The army special train had 21 cargo wagons and six passenger coaches, of which four fell into the canal while crossing the bridge.

Media reports said the special train was on its way from Kharian Cantonment to Pano Aqil city when the accident happened.

People from three coaches were rescued while the fourth bogey could not be reached immediately as it is lying deep down in the canal water, Xinhua news agency reported.

The report said about 20 to 30 people, including soldiers and their families, are trapped in the submerged bogey.

Army divers are trying to reach the trapped people by cutting the roof of the coach.

Meanwhile, the irrigation department has blocked the flow of the canal water. It will take about three hours for the water in the canal to subside, after which the rescue operation will be hastened and concluded.

The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the mouthpiece of the Pakistani army, confirmed five people were killed and four were missing in the accident.

The ISPR said the train was carrying army men and their families, and rescue teams are striving hard to pull out the people trapped in the coaches in the canal.

The injured passengers have been shifted to military hospital of the city.

The Pakistani army has taken the full control of the rescue work and four helicopters and a crane have been deployed in the operation.

Railway Minister Khwaja Saad Rafique said the possibility of a terrorist attack behind the accident cannot be ruled out as there was no apparent fault either with the train or the bridge.

He said another passenger train crossed the bridge in the morning and at that time it was intact and fully functional.

The minister said he has formed an inquiry committee to probe the incident, and added that he was on his way to the accident site to monitor the rescue work.

Regional police officer Faisal Shahkar said they did not find any explosive materials at the incident site.

According to him, however, the collapsed bridge is hundred years old and was in a dilapidated condition.

A relief train carrying medical staff and technical staff left Lahore to the accident site.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expressed concern over the mishap and directed the officials of the Pakistan Railways to rush to the site to render all help.

He also directed the officials to repair the track in the quickest possible way to restore railway traffic.

IANS

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