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Children killed as train hits school bus

Eleven children died after a train hit a bus packed with school pupils in Pakistan. It happened yesterday in thick fog at an unmanned crossing with no barrier near Mian Channun town, in Punjab province, in central Pakistan.  "The Lahore-bound Jaffer Express collided with a school van, killing nine people including two girls and the driver and wounding 18 others," said a police official. Sources at Mian Channu THQ Hospital told Pakistan’s The Nation newspaper that 24 children were brought in, seven of whom were dead. Four others did not survive. The killed children were aged between eight to ten years old. Angry families of the dead children started a protest demonstration and blocked a railway track at Musa Virk railway crossing two hours after the accident. The protestors chanted slogans against officials and complained that rescue teams arrived too late. 

Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani expressed deep grief and concern and ordered an inquiry into the incident. He also ordered Pakistan Railways to double check its unmanned crossings, particularly in fog, to ensure public safety. The Punjab government has announced compensation of Rs200,000 (about £1,500) for each child who died and Rs50,000 each for the injured. 

Pakistan has one of the world's worst records for fatal rail and road accidents, which are often blamed on poor infrastructure, badly maintained vehicles and roads, and reckless driving. In 2005, 132 people died and hundreds were injured when three packed passenger trains collided in southern Pakistan, killing at least 132 people and injuring hundreds more. The general manager of Pakistan Railways said the crash was caused by a train conductor misreading a signal, the BBC reported. Pakistan Railways is a national state-owned service which acts as an important mode of transport throughout Pakistan. It is commonly referred to as the ‘life line of the country,’ because of the large scale of people and freight it carries across Pakistan. The company carries an estimated 65 million passengers a year and runs 228 mail, express and passenger trains a day. Every day, it carries an average of 178,000 people.

For millions of Pakistan’s poorest children, life is harsh. Many families cannot afford basic health care or education; families also do not send girls to school because there are few female teachers or it is too hard for them to get to school. One in four families struggles to survive on $1 a day or less.

By Hayley Jarvis for SOS Children