‘Hero’ family that rushed to aid Pakistan train collision victims
As an express train hurtled through farmland in Pakistan and smashed into the carriages of another service that had derailed minutes earlier, a family of nearby villagers was jolted awake.
“The blast of the collision was so loud that we woke up in panic,” said Ali Nawaz, describing the start of a frantic bid to help passengers from the wreckage of the double disaster.
With patchy mobile phone reception and a poor road network, it would be hours before emergency services could reach the site, some 25km (15 miles) from the nearest city of Dharki, deep in southern Sindh province’s Ghotki district.
Nawaz’s family of about a dozen people lives just 500 metres (550 yards) from the tracks.
The men raced to identify the most seriously wounded passengers to take to hospital by car while those who appeared more stable were loaded onto tractor-trailers.
The first passenger, a mother that Nawaz’s cousin drove to the hospital, died in the back seat.
Back at the farmhouse, the women raced to fill water containers for the injured in the sweltering summer night.
“They made a chain – the women would carry water to the midway point from where the men would carry it to the passengers,” 63-year-old Nawaz told AFP news agency, as cows and calves roamed the courtyard of his single-storey brick home.
Hundreds of disorientated passengers emerged from the trains, slowly grasping the magnitude of the crash, which destroyed six carriages.
They joined the villagers in searching for survivors, clambering over the crumpled carriages to reach those trapped inside.
Seat benches from the trains were turned into beds to carry people away, and bodies lined up on the ground and respectfully covered with scarves.
“I kept working day and night – cooking meals, bread and tea – and my husband and other male members of the family kept supplying them to the victims and rescue workers,” said Habiba Mai, Nawaz’s wife.
“The woman’s face was stained with dust so I washed it with water. She had no slippers on her feet so I gave her mine.”
Outside their home on Tuesday, army personnel were resting on traditional charpoy benches under neem trees.
An officer, who did not want to be named, pulled up to reward the family with 50,000 rupees ($320) for aiding the rescue effort.
“She’s a hero,” said Muneer Ahmed, Mai’s brother-in-law.