Seven schoolchildren killed as train hits rickshaw in Lodhran

* Hazara Express was going from Havelian to Karachi when it struck a motorcycle rickshaw at an open railway crossing near Jalalpur

Seven schoolchildren killed as   train hits rickshaw in Lodhran

LODHRAN: At least eight people, including seven minor children, were killed and three others injured when a train emerged from thick fog and hit a rickshaw that was taking children to school in Lodhran on Friday.

According to reports, Hazara Express was going from Havelian to Karachi when it hit a motorcycle rickshaw near Jalalpur's open railway crossing, leaving eight people, including the rickshaw driver, dead.

The bodies and the injured were rushed to District Headquarters Hospital for medico-legal formalities and treatment. According to sources, the deceased children were aged between five and eight years. The critically injured persons were referred to Bahawalpur Victoria Hospital. Sources said that the injured were fighting for their lives in the hospital. According to witness, the railway crossing was open at the time of the accident, since no railway worker was present there to close the gates.

A Pakistan Railways spokesperson confirmed eight casualties, saying that the gateman, train driver and his assistant had been arrested.

He also confirmed that investigation had been started and the detainees were being interrogated.

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif expressed grief and sorrow over the accident and directed the authorities concerned to provide best medical facilities to the injured.

On the other hand, Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique has said that those responsible for the accident would not be spared. Addressing a press conference at the Railways Headquarters, he said that the initial inquiry report of the accident was expected within 24 hours.

The minister said that there could be several reasons for the accident, like human negligence, dense fog, technical fault or some other reason.

No one could be held responsible until the completion of the inquiry, he said. He said that the railway gate was not closed and the signal was up, so the train should have not passed the level crossing in such a situation.

Revealing that two rickshaws were involved in the accident, he said that the train hit the first one, while the other smashed into the running train.

"There are so many questions, but we all should wait for the initial investigation report," he said. The minister expressed deep sorrow over the incident and extended his sympathy to the bereaved families. He added that the management was working hard to improve the signal system. Meanwhile, Pakistan People's Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari expressed shock and grief over the tragic incident.