GHOTKI, Pakistan — Railway workers were clearing debris and repairing damaged train tracks in southern Pakistan on Thursday, a day after the country's worst rail crash in more than a decade left at least 133 people dead and hundreds of others injured, officials said.
The chain-reaction accident Wednesday was blamed on human error after the driver of one of the trains misinterpreted a signal, pulled into a station and slammed into another train. The pre-dawn collision slung carriages onto a neighboring track where they were smashed by a third train.
President Gen. Pervez Musharraf offered his condolences and promised that anyone found negligent would be prosecuted. He said at least 135 people were seriously injured. Hundreds of others were treated at the scene.
"It is clear that this was not sabotage. We will immediately start an inquiry and if there was any carelessness involved, it should be punished," he told state-run Pakistan Television.
Abdul Aziz, a senior official with the state-run Pakistan Railways, said Thursday that the death toll had climbed by five to 133 after two more bodies were recovered from the scene and three injured people died at a hospital.
Survivors said the horror near Ghotki, in southern Sindh province, started when they were jolted awake about 4 a.m. by the screech of brakes and the thunder of the impact.
"Our train was smashed from the rear and we heard a huge bang," said 50-year-old Khuda Bakhsh Larak. "Our car jumped in the air and then flipped on its side."
Larak, 50, escaped with a broken leg after he was flung against the wall of the carriage.
Others were not so lucky. The crash left metal, glass and body parts strewn across a remote railway station.
Driver misinterpreted signal, officials say
Abdul Wahab Awan, general manager of Pakistan Railways, blamed the driver of the night-coach Karachi Express for misreading a signal and rear-ending another passenger train — the Quetta Express — that was stopped in the station. The impact pushed three carriages onto an adjacent track, and they in turn were hit by the Tezgam Express, heading from Karachi north to Rawalpindi. Some 13 carriages derailed in all.
On Thursday, about 100 railroad workers cleared debris using a huge crane and were expected to repair damaged tracks by midday, said Agha Mohammed Tahir, the area's police chief.
The driver of the Karachi Express and his assistant were killed, while their colleagues on the Quetta Express are missing and presumed dead, he added.
Pakistan's railways are antiquated, and there have been many accidents in recent years — including several at Ghotki — blamed often on faulty equipment or human error.
A train carrying 800 passengers slammed into a parked freight train at Ghotki on June 8, 1991, killing more than 100 people. In December 1989, a train crash near Sangi, a town 60 kilometers (35 miles) from Ghotki, killed 400 people.
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