BAHAWALPUR: At least 140 villagers were burnt to death and atleast 150 injured when an oil tanker caught fire in Ahmedpur Sharqia in Bahawalpur Sunday morning, rescue sources informed.
Around 150 injured have been reportedly taken to Bahawal Victoria Hospital and District Headquarters Hospital Sharqia, many of them are said to be in critical condition, Rescue 1122 Director General Dr Rizwan Naseer has stated.
Around 75 motorbikes and 3 cars standing or passing by the tanker were also engulfed in the blaze.
Most of those taken to the hospitals had received 70% burn injuries, while more deaths are feared.
Rescue sources further informed that a large number of people from the area had gathered to collect fuel that was leaking from the oil tanker after it toppled over, said the rescue sources.
Eyewitnesses have informed that some people in the area had been smoking cigarettes, which could have ignited the fire.
It is feared that the death toll may rise due to unavailability of a burn unit and adequate medical facilities in the hospitals in the vicinity.
A burn unit is present in Sheikh Zayed Medical College and Hospital, a local media outlet reported. As many as 10 patients with burn injuries can be treated at the facility. It is located at some 150 kilometres from Ahmedpur Sharqia. Besides, an emergency has been imposed in District Headquarters Hospital Lodhran.
Inter Services Public Relations Director General Major General Asif Ghafoor has expressed extreme sorrow over the loss of lives in the incident, ensuring help in the rescue efforts. Moreover,army aviation helicopters were dispatched to transfer the injured and deceased to hospitals.
The spokesperson of the Punjab government Malik Ahmed Khan informed that the injured who cannot be accommodated at the hospitals in Bahawalpur and Multan would be sent to other facilities. He further stated that to avoid delays in their medical treatment, Punjab chief minister’s helicopters have been dispatched to the area. Moreover, rescue staff have also been called in from the adjoining tehsils.
Although the fire has been been brought under control but the road has not been cleared yet. Rescue work was under way as some of the bodies were being recovered out of the wreck.
Traffic was suspended on the National Highway route following the incident. However, the motorway police set up two diversions, near Noorpur Nauranga and further ahead of Dera Nawaz, as the highway is frequently used for travel between Bahawalpur and Lahore.