Cries for help pierced the night as passengers climbed out of overturned or crushed rail cars, and continued to echo through the day at the scene in the district of Ghotki, in the southern province of Sindh. Heavy machines came to cut some cars, and more than 15 hours after the crash, rescuers were removing wreckage as they looked for anybody who would remain trapped -- although hopes were fading for survivors. The military deployed troops, engineers and helicopters to assist.
At around 3:30 a.m., the Millat Express train derailed along with the Sir Syed Express train struck minutes after, said Usman Abdullah, a deputy commissioner of Ghotki. It wasn't immediately clear what caused the derailment, and the driver of the second train stated he braked if he saw the disabled train but did not have the time to prevent the collision.
"The challenge for us is to quickly rescue those passengers that are still trapped in the wreckage," said Umar Tufail, a police chief in the district. The death toll steadily climbed through the day, reaching at least 45, according to Abdullah.
Abdullah said the chances of finding any survivors from the badly destroyed coach were diminishing, but said light has been brought in so the rescue function could last even through the nighttime, if needed.
Officials said more than 100 passengers were injured, and those with critical injuries would be brought by helicopter to a nearby town hospital. According to railway officials, about 1,100 passengers were on board the two trains.
Before, Azam Swati, the minister for railways who headed to the scene of the crash, told The Associated Press that engineers and specialists were attempting to ascertain exactly what caused the collision and that all facets would be examined, including the potential for sabotage.
Habibur Rehman Gilani, chairman of Pakistan Railways, told Pakistan's Geo News TV the section of the railway tracks where the wreck happened was old and needed replacing. He did not elaborate.
Aijaz Ahmed, the driver of the Sir Syed Express, told the channel that on seeing the derailed train, he tried his best to avoid the wreck by braking but neglected. Railway officials said Ahmed was slightly hurt, and villagers pulled him by the train's engine after the crash.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed his profound sorrow over the tragedy, saying on Twitter he had asked the railroad minister to oversee the rescue work and also ordered a probe into the wreck.
According to local press, a few of the passengers around the Millat Express were heading into a wedding celebration.
Mohammad Amin, among the passengers around the Millat Express who had minor injuries, told the AP from a hospital which prior to the train departed in the southern port city of Karachi, he and his brother saw mechanics working on one of the cars.
That led them to believe there was something wrong with it however they were reassured all was nice. Amin said he thought the train car that was being worked was the one that later derailed. Railway officials said that they were documenting announcements of survivors, including the drivers.
Train accidents are common in Pakistan, in which successive governments have paid little attention to enhancing the badly maintained signal system and aging tracks.
In 1990, a packed passenger plowed into a standing freight train in southern Pakistan, killing 210 people in the worst railway disaster in Pakistan's history.