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School children killed as train and bus collide

Updated Thursday, 14 January, 2010

At least nine people, eight of them children, were killed and 18 others injured on Wednesday when a passenger train hit a bus packed with school children in central Pakistan, officials said.

The crash took place at an unmanned crossing with no barrier near Mian Channun town, about 100 kilometres east of the central city of Multan in Punjab province, which was enveloped in fog at the time.

"The Lahore-bound Jaffer Express collided with a school van, killing nine people including two girls and the driver and wounding 18 others," senior police official Kamran Khan said.

Mushtaq Ahmad, a senior doctor at the government's main hospital in Mian Channun, said the bodies of seven children and the driver reached his hospital, while 18 other people were being treated for injuries.

Officials said the parents of the eighth dead child may have taken the body home for burial.

The primary school children were all aged around eight to 10 years old and were on their way to class when the accident happened.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has ordered an inquiry into the "tragic" incident.

"The prime minister expressed deep grief and concern over the tragic road accident in which several school children lost their lives," a statement issued by his office said.

Mr Gilani also asked state-owned Pakistan Railways to "ensure proper vigilance at their unmanned crossings, particularly during times of fog".

Pakistan has one of the world's worst records for fatal rail and road accidents, blamed on poor infrastructure, badly maintained vehicles and roads and reckless driving.