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140 Burnt to Death in Pak, Had Rushed to Collect Oil from Overturned Tanker

More than 100 people were burnt to death and dozens injured when an oil tanker overturned and exploded on a highway near Bahawalpur city in Pakistan’s Punjab province on Sunday, Pakistani media reported.


Updated:June 25, 2017, 4:26 PM IST
140 Burnt to Death in Pak, Had Rushed to Collect Oil from Overturned Tanker
Burnt out cars and motorcycles are seen at the scene of the oil tanker explosion in Bahawalpur, Pakistan. (Photo: Reuters)

New Delhi: At least 140 people were burnt to death and 100 injured when an oil tanker overturned and exploded on a highway near Bahawalpur city in Pakistan’s Punjab province on Sunday morning, Pakistani media reported.

The News International reported that the tanker skidded off the road and overturned in Ahmedpur Sharqia area of the city, following which villagers from nearby areas flocked to the site to collect the oil spilling out of the tanker. The massive vehicle caught fire and exploded, killing at least 123 people, the report said.

The fire was apparently caused by someone who lit a cigarette, officials said.

District Coordination Officer (DCO) Bahawalpur Rana Salim Afzal termed it a "huge tragedy" in the history of Pakistan. “At least 123 people were killed before getting any medical help while the rescue officials shifted more than 100 injured to the district headquarters hospital and Victoria Hospital in Bahawalpur where the condition of most of them is critical," Afzal said, adding some 50,000 litre petrol spilled from the oil tanker.

Dr. Rizwan Naseer, director of Punjab provincial rescue services, said rescuers were collecting the badly burned bodies, many beyond recognition.

Eyewitnesses said about 30 motorcycles that had carried villagers to the accident site lay in charred ruins nearby. Eight other vehicles were destroyed, they said.

Muhammad Hanif, 40, who suffered burns, told reporters at Victoria Hospital that he was present at his house when his cousin called him informing that the village people were rushing to the highway to collect "free oil".

"My cousin told me to pick bottles and come out of the house. When I came out of the house I saw many people rushing towards the highway and some going there by motorcycles. Me and my cousin Rashid reached the highway and joined the people busy in collecting the petrol spilling from the tanker.

Suddenly the tanker burst and the people gathered near it were burnt alive. Rashid and I were a little away from the tanker therefore we are alive," Hanif said.

He said it was "greed" of the villagers which took them to the "valley of death".

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif directed the authorities to ensure best medical treatment to the injured. He also sent his chopper for shifting the injured to Multan hospitals.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif President Mamnoon Hussain, PTI chairman Imran Khan and PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto condoled the tragedy.

Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa ordered the Army to assist the civil administration in the rescue effort. Army helicopters have been deployed in the rescue operations.

The disaster came on the eve of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramzan. While Saudi Arabia and most other Muslim countries celebrated the holiday on Sunday, Pakistanis will celebrate on Monday.

Residents were told of the leaking fuel over a loudspeaker atop the local mosque, said Rana Mohammad Salim, deputy commissioner of Bahawalpur, near where the tanker overturned.

Salim said some of the seriously injured have been moved to Multan. The dead included men, women and children, he said.

Imran Shah, a spokesman for the highway police, told a local TV channel that police moved quickly to redirect traffic but couldn't stop the scores of villagers who raced to collect the fuel.

Pakistan has an appalling record of fatal traffic accidents due to poor roads, badly maintained vehicles and reckless driving.

At least 62 people including women and children were killed in southern Pakistan in 2015 when their bus collided with an oil tanker, starting a fierce blaze that left victims burnt beyond recognition.

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| Edited by: Huma Tabassum
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