Roads to Mariamabad, a popular pilgrim center, have become accident-prone due to tardy progress in repairing
The requiem Mass for victims of the bus accident in Pakistan being held on Sept. 11 at St. Mary’s Girls High School in Adah parish, Sialkot district. (Photo supplied)
Nine people died and 50 others were hurt after their overcrowded bus heading to Pakistan's most popular Marian shrine overturned on Sept. 10.
Father Francis Gulzar, former vicar general of Lahore archdiocese, said the driver lost control of the bus which was overspeeding.
The driver is still at large.
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Six pilgrims, aged between 25 and 30, died at the scene of the accident at Khanqah Dogran, 10 kilometers away from Mariamabad, literally meaning the city of Mary.Lahore archdiocese, under which the pilgrim site functions, held a requiem Mass on Sept. 11 at a school in Adah parish in Sialkot district.
The priest said local people informed them about the deaths of three more people while they were returning after the funeral Mass.
“It is hard to console the families who lost their loved ones for a noble cause,” Gulzar told UCA News.
“We demand the immediate arrest of the driver, who drove recklessly.”
Archbishop Sebastian Shaw of Lahore will celebrate a Mass for the victims on Sept. 12 in Adha parish.
Nasir Masih, one of the passengers, paid 1,000 rupees (US$3.27) to book a seat on the bus that started from Adha parish.
He said the 55-seat bus was overcrowded with more than 100 pilgrims.
Young people were standing in the isle of the overcrowded bus, Masih added.
Masih sustained head and shoulder injuries.
The 51-year-old man said he "woke up in a hospital, covered in mud."
The Marian shrine in Punjab province attracts thousands of devotees from across the country for the Sept. 8-10 feast.
Organizers said this year's event attracted more people as it marked the start of the 75th jubilee year.
Fatal accidents have occurred rather frequently on roads to Mariamabad.
In another incident on Sept. 10, a young man died when the motorcycle carrying him and his brother fell off a bridge.
Last year, an 18-year-old Christian died in an accident while returning home on a motorbike.
In 2017, four Catholics died in a road accident while traveling to the shrine.
Father Faisal Pervaiz, in charge of the pilgrimage committee, complained of slow progress in repairing roads leading to Mariamabad.
“We've called on the authorities to repair the damaged roads" but they do not do a proper job, Father Pervaiz told UCA News.
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