No less than 148 persons have been feared dead with another 130 injured on Sunday morning after an overturned oil tanker caught fire in eastern Pakistan.
It is understood that the tragedy at the Ahmad Sharqia area of Bahawalpur in Pakistan occurred in th early hours of today as a crowd attempted to scoop fuel from the tanker after it overturned.
Local news channels showed black smoke billowing skyward and horrific images of scores of burned bodies, as well as rescue officials speeding the injured to hospital and army helicopters ferrying the wounded.
According to a police official, the explosion came as villagers began to gather around the truck in an attempt to collect oil in containers.
The blast has left at least 130 people injured and a state of emergency has been declared in the city, Punjab government spokesman Salman Sufi said.
Bahawalpur’s Victoria Hospital was treating 40 of the injured, all of whom have suffered 70% burns, said Pakistan’s The Nation newspaper
Also, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the media wing of Pakistan’s military, said a total of 51 people with serious burns and in critical condition have been transported by army helicopters to the city of Multan.
It added that the road had been reopened and that traffic had begun to flow again.
The death toll could rise further as another 50 people are still in critical condition, said Dr Mohammad Baqar, a senior rescue official in the area.
Meanwhile, in the immediate aftermath of the incident, Pakistan Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif “expressed deep grief over the heavy loss of life.”
“The Prime Minister has directed provincial government to provide full medical assistance to the injured with burns,” a statement from the Prime Minister’s office said.
“The Prime Minister has expressed sympathies with the bereaved families and prayed for the departed souls.”
The Chief Minister of Punjab Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif has said an inquiry would be held into the incident.
Also, the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa ordered the army to assist the civil administration in the rescue efforts.
“COAS expresses grief on losses in oil tanker incident,” Director General of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major Gen Asif Ghafoor said in a tweet.