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11 die of electric shock atop train

Karachi: Authorities were investigating how up to 11 people died when passengers sitting atop a train were electrocuted after religious flags they were carrying to an Islamic festival got entangled in an overhead power line, police said on Monday.
The dead and injured were sitting atop the crowded passenger train when they received electric shocks or were thrown to the ground by the high-voltage line.

The accident, which killed as many as 11 people and also hurt more than 40, occurred Sunday evening near the town of Sukkur, about 360 km northeast of Karachi, the capital of southern Sindh province.

The diesel-powered passenger train was packed with people travelling to the town of Rohri, near Sukkur, to attend a Shiite Islamic religious gathering. Those unable to squeeze inside had clambered onto the roof, officials said.

Sukkur police chief Zafar Farooqi said investigators would try to draw lessons from the accident. “The inquiry will suggest how to better manage the crowd of passengers at special occasions such as Muharram and Eid in the future,” Farooqi said, referring to two major Muslim festivals that usually see a surge in train passengers.

He said some of those sitting on the roof were carrying religious flags and other symbols that got tangled in the electricity line as they passed underneath it, electrocuting and throwing people from the train.

The probe will also examine why railroad officials didn’t stop people from climbing atop the carriages, Farooqi said.

Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said 11 people died, though a spokesman for the Sindh provincial government said the bodies of 10 people were taken to hospitals in Sukkur and the nearby town of Shikarpur.

It was not clear why their death tallies differed.

Train accidents are common in Pakistan, which has an antiquated, often poorly maintained railway system. Passengers can endure long delays and overcrowding. Seven people died last June when a passenger train rammed a car at a crossing in eastern Pakistan.

Shiite Muslims gather every year at a mosque in Rohri in connection with the festival of Ashoura, in which Shiites mourn the death of Imam Hussain, the grandson of Islam’s prophet Muhammad, officials said.

The final day of Ashoura is on Tuesday, when Shiite stage processions carrying religious flags and other symbols and beat their chests in a sign of grief.

Source: Mumbai Mirror
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