Toll from Pakistan tanker fire climbs to 148

At least 153 men, women and children were killed, with dozens more in critical condition, hospital and rescue officials said.

"According to the initial reports, somebody tried to light a cigarette, and then the spilled fuel caught fire, leading to the tanker's explosion", Jam Sajjad Hussain, spokesperson for the rescue workers service said.

The speeding tanker overturned on a sharp bend on a highway on the outskirts of the city of Bahawalpur.

The disaster occurred when hundreds of residents of a nearby village gathered at the site of an overturned oil tanker to collect the leaking fuel.

Villagers said numerous victims had been related to each other. According to the sources, identities of the deceased can not be ascertained without obtaining their DNA sample, as their bodies were badly burnt in the incident. Victims trapped in the fireball. "Rashid and I were a little away from the tanker therefore we are alive", Hanif said.

Video images of the people gathered to collect petrol emerged showing young and old people filling their bikes with the spilled oil and collecting it in bottles and cans.

A total of 75 motorbikes and six vehicles including a traffic police vehicle were burnt out in the fire, said police.

The deaths from the explosion were expected to rise as numerous injured were reported to be in critical condition.

Survivors were taken to nearby hospitals with a lot of them sustaining over 70 per cent burn injuries. Nearly a dozen other vehicles were also destroyed by the inferno.

The official spokesperson of Pakistan Armed Forces tweeted that helicopters sent for evacuation of casualties to hospitals and burn centers.

About 30 motorcycles that villagers had used to rush to the site of the highway accident lay charred nearby along with cars, witnesses said.

The horrific early morning tragedy came hours before Pakistan was due to begin Eid al-Fitr celebrations marking the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

A number of other vehicles were also caught in the blaze.

Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab, expressed his grief over the loss of life, said an aide, Salman Sufi.

  • Leroy Wright