At least 153 dead as oil tanker catches fire in Pakistan
Eyewitnesses say some people were smoking cigarettes at the scene of the accident, which could have led to the fire, Daily Pakistan reported. (Representative image) Photograph: (AFP)
An oil tanker overturned and burst into flames in the city of Bahawalpur in Pakistan on Sunday morning, killing 153 people.
About 80 people have been injured. An estimated 20 children were among the dead, rescue workers said.
The tanker overturned on a sharp bend on a highway on the outskirts of the city of Bahawalpur and later caught fire. The driver lost control when the vehicle blew a tire, a provincial government spokesman said. The driver of the tanker survived the accident and had been taken into police custody.
Eyewitnesses say some people were smoking cigarettes at the scene of the accident, which could have led to the fire, Daily Pakistan reported.
"When it (oil tanker) turned over the residents of the nearby village of Ramzanpur Joya rushed to the site with buckets and other containers, and a large number of people on motorcycles also came and started collecting the spilling fuel," regional police chief Raja Riffat told AFP.
"After about 10 minutes the tanker exploded in a huge fireball and enveloped the people collecting petrol. It was not clear how the fire started."
The death toll was feared to rise as many of the injured were said to be in critical condition.
Serious burn victims, several in critical condition, were airlifted by helicopter to hospitals in Bahawalpur and nearby cities for treatment. Firefighters fought the flames for over two hours before extinguishing the fire.
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.