At least 140 people have been burnt alive and dozens of others injured after an overturned oil tanker caught fire and exploded near Bahawalpur city in Pakistan's Punjab province, the media reported.
The tanker overturned on Sunday morning and a large number of people rushed to collect the flowing petrol from the tanker when the highly inflammable liquid caught fire and the tanker exploded, rescue services personel said.
Sources told Geo News that most of the victims were residents of areas flanking a highway in Ahmed Pur Sharqia, off which the oil tanker skidded off. The injured were moved to Bahawalpur Victoria Hospital and other nearby health facilities.
The deaths from the explosion were expected to rise as many of the injured were reported to be in critical condition. The fire brigade arrived at the site of the incident shortly after the blaze started and rescue operations were underway, reports Dawn news.
Two fire engines battled the fire and eventually managed to control it. Although the inferno has been controlled, the road has not been cleared yet. Besides, rescue work was underway as some of the bodies stuck in the wreckage were being taken out.
Six cars and 12 motorcycles parked in the vicinity were also severely damaged. Rizwan Naseer, Director of Punjab provincial rescue services, said many of the bodies were badly burnt and beyond recognition.
Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa ordered the army to assist the civil administration in the rescue efforts. Army helicopters were used in the rescue operations to transport the injured to the hospitals."COAS expresses grief on losses in oil tanker incident. Directed provision of full assistance to civil administration in rescue [and] relief efforts," Director General of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major Gen Asif Ghafoor said.
"Army helicopters sent for evacuation of casualties to hospitals [and] burn centres. Hospitals placed on high alert," he added.
The Prime Minister's House said the Punjab provincial government had been directed to provide full medical assistance.
"Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has expressed deep grief over the heavy loss of life in the unfortunate accident of oil tanker fire at Ahmad Pur Sharqia, Bahawalpur," the statement said.