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Train Derails in Pakistan, Killing 50

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ASHRAF KHAN | December 18, 2007 11:36 PM EST | AP

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MIRPURKHAS, Pakistan — An express train crowded with holiday travelers derailed in southern Pakistan early Wednesday, killing at least 50 people and injuring many more, officials said.

The overnight train was going from Karachi to Lahore when about 12 of its 16 cars came off the rails near Mehrabpur, about 250 miles north of Karachi, the officials said.

Rescue workers recovered 50 bodies from the wreckage and were bringing in metal cutting equipment to gain access to more of the cars, said Sikander Ali, a senior police officer at the scene.

But Pakistan's largest privately-run emergency service, the Edhi Foundation, said that 32 dead bodies and 139 injured people have been pulled out of the wreckage so far.

Dozens of passengers were still trapped in two carriages and rescue workers were using gas cutters to break the metal wreckage and reach them, said David John, a supervisor with the group.

"We can hear women and children crying inside the two carriages," John said by phone from the scene.

It was not possible immediately to reconcile the conflicting figures on the death toll.

Azhar Ali Rajpar, a local villager who heard the crash and rushed to the scene, said he had seen "countless" injured people.

"Almost all of the carriages were destroyed," Rajpar said by telephone. "There is total darkness. It is almost impossible for the rescuers."

The train jumped the tracks around 2 a.m. as it carried hundreds of passengers home for the Islamic holiday of Eid ul-Adha.

The cause of the crash was not immediately clear.

Mohammed Khalid, a railway official who was traveling in one of the rear cars which stayed on the rails, said he suspected a problem with the track _ possibly sabotage _ caused the accident.

Some of the carriages had plunged into water standing alongside the rails, Khalid said.

Mehrabpur Mayor Farooq Ahmed Lodhi said about 80 people injured in the crash were rushed to the city's hospital.

"People from villages near the scene have brought food, water and blankets for victims of the accident," Lodhi said.

Maqsoodun Nabi, a police official in Karachi, said the train was loaded with about 700 passengers, including a large wedding party who had booked a special car.

Deadly accidents are a regular occurrence on Pakistan's colonial-era railway network.

A speeding train struck a crowded bus at a railway crossing near Lahore in October, killing 12 people and injuring about 50 others. About 130 people died in July 2005 when three trains collided in southern Pakistan.

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Associated Press Writer Zarar Khan in Islamabad contributed to this report.