ISLAMABAD (AP) — At least four cars of a train being used to transport Pakistani soldiers fell into a canal because of a bridge collapse in the eastern Punjab province on Thursday, killing at least five soldiers, officials said.
The military said the train derailed while crossing the Chanawan canal near the city of Gujranwalal. It said commandos, divers and other rescuers had retrieved 80 passengers, five of whom had been wounded.
TV networks showed footage of soldiers and civil authorities taking part in the rescue operation as helicopters flew over the canal.
Pakistan Railways spokesman Abdul Rauf Tahir said another passenger train carrying hundreds of people had passed over the same bridge about 90 minutes before the train carrying soldiers fell into the canal.
“We frequently examine our bridges, but it is too early to say what caused the accident,” he told The Associated Press.
Earlier, an army official and a government official said the train was being used by Pakistan’s army to transport soldiers from the southern Sindh province. They said hundreds of soldiers were participating in the rescue operation and experts from the army were examining the collapsed bridge to determine the cause of the incident.
They said some of the army officers on board the train were traveling with their families.
The two officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief media.
Train accidents are common in Pakistan, where tracks and bridges are often poorly maintained. Small separatist groups in Pakistan’s southwestern Baluchistan have been known to bomb railway tracks.