The number of passengers who died after a train exploded and caught fire in south-eastern Pakistan has reached 74 on Thursday with about three dozens wounded, officials said.
The train was on its way from the southern city of Karachi to Lahore in the east when a fuel cylinder used by passengers to cook breakfast exploded, in one of the deadliest rail accidents in the country, Railways Minister Shaikh Rashid Ahmed said.
Ahmed said an inquiry was under way to find out how the fuel – which is banned on trains – was brought on.
At least three carriages caught fire as a result of the explosion and people started jumping off the moving train, the minister added.
Local rescue official Baqir Hussain confirmed the numbers and feared the death toll might go up as some of the wounded people were in a critical condition.
Victims with burn injuries were being treated at a hospital in the nearby city of Multan, doctor Naheed Chaudhry said.
More than 200 passengers were on board the burnt carriages, Railways official Junaid Aslam said.
“Only few might have survived,” Hussain said.
Most victims were members of an Islamic preaching group who were travelling to participate in a religious event near the city of Lahore.
Most bodies were charred beyond recognition and DNA testing would be conducted to identify the victims, Hussain said.
Television footage showed huge flames coming out of burning carriages and thick black smoke spreading in the air.
Rail operations remained suspended for several hours after the accident, Aslam said.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan ordered an inquiry to find out who was at fault in allowing a fuel cylinder on the train.
Opposition leaders called for the resignation of the railways minister in the aftermath of the accident.
There has been a rise in deadly train accidents in Pakistan this year.
At least 23 people were killed and dozens more injured when a passenger train in eastern Pakistan slammed into a freight wagon parked on the track in July this year.
Train accidents are common in Pakistan, where many tracks laid by the British rulers during colonial times before 1947 have not been upgraded since.
Besides outdated tracks, bombings by Islamist militants and separatists and weak safety and security systems are the other causes of hundreds of deaths in train accidents every year.