Oil Tanker Bursts Into Flames in Pakistan

Abdul Rashid, 30, one of those injured, said he and his friend had joined in collecting the spilled fuel after passing by the area and seeing people trying to scoop it up from the overturned tanker.

Crowds from surrounding villages began flocking to the crash site, carrying buckets and other containers to gather fuel leaking from the tank. Muhammad Hanif, 40, who suffered burns, told reporters at the 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".

With the extent of casualties, the local government declared a state of emergency in the city.

He says numerous bodies were burned beyond recognition and will have to be identified through DNA testing. Army helicopters were used in the rescue operations to transport the injured to the hospitals. Then the truck exploded, engulfing the people on the road.

In addition, an estimated 20 children were among the dead. About 120 people died immediately in the blast, and many more soon died from their burn wounds, he said.

"Victims trapped in the fireball".

Two fire engines battled the fire and eventually managed to control it. "The people who were alive were in really bad shape", he said. "We are so saddened to hear of the awful oil tanker accident in #Bahawalpur", it said.

The Prime Minister's House said the Punjab provincial government had been directed to provide full medical assistance.

Mohammad Shabbir, another villager, said the driver was shouting for people to stay away because the petrol could explode at any time, but no one listened.

Both Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expressed deep sorrow over the loss of so many precious lives in the incident on the eve of Eidul-Fitr, a Muslim festival observed at the end of holy fasting month of Ramadan.

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

It left the road and overturned in the Kachi Pul area, they said, about 8km (five miles) from Ahmedpur East, in Punjab's Bahawalpur district.

Authorities warned that the death toll could rise in the accident near Bahawalpur, a city of of about 1 million people near the Indian border.

  • Joanne Flowers