ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — More than 100 people died Sunday in Pakistan when an oil tanker overturned and caught fire and a crowd rushed in to collect fuel, police said.
The tanker flipped over on a highway in the city of Bahawalpur in Punjab province about 6 a.m. Seeing fuel spilling onto the road, villagers in the area, some riding motorcycles, rushed to the site with buckets and containers, said Raja Riffat, the Bahawalpur police chief.
“About 10 minutes later, the tanker exploded in a huge fireball and enveloped the people collecting petrol,” Riffat said.
At least 128 people died, he said, but the death toll was expected to rise with dozens critically wounded with burns over more than half their bodies. The Associated Press, citing another local official, said 153 people had died.
The fire broke out along a main artery of Pakistan that connects the southern port city of Karachi with rest of the country.
Baqar Hussain, a district emergency official, said 123 bodies and more than 120 injured were brought to hospitals. Many of the bodies were so badly burned that they would require DNA testing to identify them, Hussain said.
Officials of the Pakistan Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority said the tanker was traveling from Karachi to the Punjabi capital, Lahore, carrying more than 10,500 gallons of fuel. It overturned after trying to make a sharp turn.
Transportation officials and police reached the site of the crash and tried to keep people away, but their warnings were ignored, witnesses said.
The suffering was compounded by the lack of a burn unit in the district hospital. The nearest such facility is nearly 100 miles away in the city of Multan, in southern Punjab.
Rana Sanaullah, the provincial law minister, said the driver of the tanker survived and was in police custody.
The Pakistani army sent soldiers and helicopters to remove bodies. Traffic was restored after six hours of rescue operations, officials said.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency LLC.