MULTAN, Pakistan (AP) — A massive fire caused by a cooking gas stove erupted on Thursday on a train traveling in Pakistan’s eastern Punjab province, killing at least 46 passengers, officials said.
The blaze started as the train was approaching the town of Liaquatpur in Punjab. According to Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad, some of the passengers were trying to prepare breakfast on the stove as the train was moving, in violation of railway rules.
A deputy commissioner, Jamil Ahmed, said authorities have so far counted 46 bodies. TV footage from the scene of the fire showed a huge blaze raging through the train as firefighters struggled to get it under control.
The authorities said they were still trying to identify the victims and that the lists of fatalities and those injured were not ready yet. Another train has been dispatched to bring the survivors to the city of Rawalpindi.
Yasmin Rashid, a provincial minister in the Punjab, told reporters that the medical staff were providing the best possible treatment for the injured at a hospital in Liaquatpur.
Those critically injured will be taken ambulances to the city of Multan, the largest city nearest to the site of the accident.
The train was on its way from the southern port city of Karachi, the capital of southern Sindh province, to the garrison city of Rawalpindi when the blaze erupted, said Ahmed, the deputy commissioner.
Pakistan’s military said troops were also participating in the rescue operation.
President Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan issued statements expressing grief over the tragedy.
Train accidents in Pakistan are often the result of poor railway infrastructure and official negligence.
Media reports on Thursday suggest that railways officials did not notice when passengers boarded the train, carrying individual gas stoves.