At least 148 people were burned to death after an oil tanker overturned and burst into flames in Pakistan’s Bahawalpur city on Sunday morning, AP reported quoting an unidentified rescue official. More than 80 people are believed to be injured in the incident.

The tanker overturned in Ahmedpur Sharqia area after trying to make a sharp turn on a highway. Scores of residents who had rushed to collect the leaking fuel after the tanker flipped over were charred to death, reported GeoNews.

“People of the area and passersby had started gathering fuel when the tanker exploded, burning everybody at and around the spot,” provincial government spokesperson Malik Muhammad Ahmed Khan said.

Firefighters fought the flames for nearly two hours before extinguishing the blaze.

A cigarette may have caused the fire

“According to the initial reports, somebody tried to light a cigarette, and then the spilled fuel caught fire, leading to the tanker’s explosion,” Jam Sajjad Hussain, spokesperson for the rescue workers service said.

The burn victims, many of whom are in critical condition, were airlifted by helicopter to Bahawalpur Victoria Hospital and nearby cities for treatment. Dr Mohamed Ahmed said children were among the dead and injured, and that people with severe burns were being shifted to other cities as the hospital lacked facilities to treat so many patients at once, reported Al-Jazeera.


‘Toll is likely to rise’

Dr Rizwan Naseer, director of Punjab provincial rescue services, said rescuers were collecting the badly burned bodies, many of which were charred beyond recognition. He said the toll is likely to rise.

The blaze erupted in Kachi Pul area near the national highway. Dozens of vehicles, including 75 motorbikes and four cars, were engulfed in the flames. Most of those affected were residents of the locality, whiles others were passing by on the route.

The police told Pakistani government news agency APP that the tanker, travelling from Karachi to Lahore, had been carrying 25,000 litres of oil, reported BBC.

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expressed his grief at the accident and ordered authorities to make sure that the victims were treated at the best medical facilities, his office said in a statement.