As an express train crossed agricultural lands in Pakistan and crashed into the streets of another service that had derailed minutes earlier, a family of neighboring villagers was awakened.
“The explosion of the collision was so strong that we woke up in a panic,” said Ali Nawaz, describing the start of a frantic offer to help passengers from the remnants of the double disaster.
“When we left the house, we saw that the train had stopped. When we approached the scene, we heard people calling for help.”
At least 63 people were killed in Monday’s crash, officials said, with dozens more injured.
With a parked telephone reception and a poor road network, it would be hours before emergency services could reach the site, about 25 km (15 miles) from the nearest town of Dharki, in the depths of Ghotki district. of the southern province of Sindh.
The Nawaz family of about ten people lives only 500 meters (550 yards) from the slopes.
Men rushed to identify the most seriously injured passengers to be taken to hospital by car while those who appeared more stable were loaded into tractor-trailers.
The first passenger, a mother whose Nawaz cousin drove to the hospital, died in the back seat.
Back at the farmhouse, the women rushed to fill water containers for the wounded on the stifling summer night.
“They made a chain – the women would carry the water to the midpoint from where the men would carry it to the passengers,” Nawaz, 63, told AFP as cows and calves turned in. the courtyard of his floor. brick house.
Hundreds of disoriented passengers emerged from the trains, slowly taking on the magnitude of the crash, which destroyed six wagons.
They join the villagers in search of survivors, climbing the winding roads to reach those trapped inside.
The benches of the seats by the trains were transformed into beds to drag people, and the bodies lined up on the ground and respectfully covered with scarves.
“I continued to work day and night – cooking pastries, bread and tea – and my husband and other male family members continued to provide them to the victims and rescue workers,” said Habiba Mai, his wife. of Nawaz.
When dawn broke, an injured passenger and his three children went home.
“I milked my cow to feed her little daughter,” Mai, 40, said.
“The woman’s face was stained with dust, so I washed it with water.” He didn’t have slippers at his feet, so I gave them mine. ”
Outside his home Tuesday, army personnel rested on traditional charpoy benches under neem trees.
An officer, who did not want to be named, pulled out to reward the family with 50,000 rupees ($ 320) for helping the rescue effort.
“He’s a hero,” said Muneer Ahmed, Mai’s brother-in-law.
He never stood next to his daughter, giving tea to the visitors who always gathered outside the house in the evening, the walls blackened by the smoke.
“My fingers are almost bruised from sitting on the fire day and night,” she said, smiling. “We did the best we could.”