A massive fire caused by a cooking gas stove erupted on Thursday on a train traveling in Pakistan's eastern Punjab province, killing at least 71 passengers, officials say. Flames roared through the train cars as the train approached the town of Liaquatpur in Punjab, they said, the latest tragedy to hit Pakistan's dilapidated, poorly maintained, and mismanaged rail system. Survivors recounted horrific scenes of fellow passengers screaming as they jumped through the windows and off the train, flames billowing from the carriages, the AP reports. At least 43 people were injured, 11 of them critically. Survivors say it took the train nearly 20 minutes to come to a halt after the fire broke out and passengers began screaming for help.
"I thought we would die. The next car was on fire. We felt so helpless," says Chaudhry Shujaat, who had boarded the train just a few hours earlier with his wife and two children. Deputy Commissioner Jamil Ahmed says the fire broke out when a gas stove exploded as breakfast was being prepared on board. People from nearby villages rushed to the train, carrying buckets of water and shovels to help douse the flames. "But it was impossible," says Ahmed. In Pakistan, poor passengers often bring their own small gas stoves on the trains to cook their meals, despite rules to the contrary, Ahmed says. Survivors say they were told most of the people who had jumped from the train died. (Read more Pakistan stories.)