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73 killed as fire chars three train carriages in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: At least 73 people were killed and 40 others injured after a fire swept through a train near Liaquatpur city in Pakistan on Thursday.

A gas cylinder that passengers were using to cook breakfast caused the fire, authorities said. The fire destroyed three of the train’s carriages. It was on its way from Karachi to Rawalpindi.

“Two stoves blew up when people were cooking breakfast, the presence of kerosene with the passengers in the moving train further spread the fire,” Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said.

Many of the dead were killed when they leapt from the moving train to escape the flames, he said.

But several survivors questioned whether the fire was sparked by a cooking accident, telling media they believed the cause was a short circuit in the train’s electrical system.

Fire and black smoke engulfed the three carriages after it came to a stop on a stretch of line flanked by fields. People were seen jumping off, some of them on fire.

The death toll had risen to 73, with some victims burned beyond recognition, said the deputy commissioner of the district, Jameel Ahmad.

“We’ll have to carry out DNA tests,” Ahmad said.

Nearly 40 people were injured, many with serious burns, he said.

Many of the passengers were heading to a conference organized by the Tablighi Jamaat Sunni Muslim missionary movement.

Prime Minister Imran Khan said he was deeply saddened.

“I have ordered an immediate inquiry to be completed on an urgent basis,” Khan said in a post on Twitter.

Pakistan’s railway network has fallen into disrepair in recent decades due to chronic under-investment and poor maintenance, and accidents are common. About 130 people were killed in 2005 when a train rammed into another at a station in Sindh province, and a third train hit the wreckage.