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Official says missing coal dumped ‘accidentally’

LAHORE / BAHAWALPUR: The Pakistan Railways and Railway police teams have initiated separate probes to track the whereabouts of a large shipment of coal that went ‘missing’ from a hopper wagon in the second freight consignment from Port Qasim to Sahiwal on Wednesday.

Authorities wised up to the ‘theft’ when Chinese engineers at the Sahiwal coal power plant complained about a delay in the fuel’s shipment to the railway authorities in Lahore and Sahiwal. The wagon might have been emptied near the Kulab railway station, between Liaquatpur and Dera Nawab Sahib, some 30km away from Bahawalpur city.

Railway police officials guarding the special 18-wagon train told the Sahiwal assistant station master about the missing coal early on Thursday. At a meeting following the discovery, Railways CEO Javed Anwar constituted a three-member committee comprising a goods deputy chief operating superintendent, a carriage and wagons deputy chief mechanical engineer, and a director of the coal freight transportation company to probe the matter. The committee has not been given a timeframe to complete the inquiry.

Dismissing the possibility of theft, a spokesperson for the railways told reporters that according to a preliminary inquiry, it was likely that the coal had fallen off a hopper wagon. There were also conflicting reports regarding the quantity of coal that has gone missing. While the Chinese engineers at the coal power station said the wagon had been carrying 22 tonnes of coal, several railway officials insisted that it was almost 70 tonnes.

“The hopper wagons, manufactured in China and assembled in Pakistan, are used worldwide. They have manual and an automatic unlocking systems which can help unload an entire wagon, with a capacity to carry 70 tonnes of coal, in 30 seconds. Per­haps, someone intentionally or unintentionally operated the manual unloading mode during the journey from Karachi to Sahiwal.”

The spokesperson said: “In order to avoid such incidents from happening in the future, we have decided to develop and install a device in these wagons which will make it impossible to unlock easily.”

However, an officer at the Sahiwal plant site challenged the assertion that the coal had gone missing by accident. “Is it possible that coal leakage from the wagon was reported and no one took notice?”

A Pakistan Railways assistant traffic officer and an assistant mechanical officer patrolled the track from Liaquatpur to Dera Nawab Sahib in a trolley pushed by gangmen. They checked the platforms, godown rumps and surrounding spaces for scattered coal lumps. They interviewed the watchmen at manned railway crossings and gangmen working along the track as well. Several people in the area insisted that the coal could not have been stolen between Kulab and Dera Nawab Sahib railway stations.

Some railway officials said the amount of coal that had gone missing would have been visible from a long distance if someone had tried to carry it away. They expressed the apprehension that the train wagon might just have been empty from the start.

The inquiry is still in progress and more railway teams are expected to visit the site on Friday.

Kulab station master Mahar Fayyaz told Dawn over the phone that they had found small heaps of coal ash along the track, but they did not match the quantity of coal that had gone missing. Railway police officials also said there was nothing that suggested theft at Kulab railway station or at any other station on the track.

courtesy : dawn news

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