By Associated Press
MULTAN, Pakistan (AP) – An overturned oil tanker burst into flames in Pakistan on Sunday, killing 153 people who had rushed to the scene of the highway accident to gather leaking fuel.
CAPTION: Pakistan army soldiers stand guard while rescue workers examine the site of an oil tanker explosion at a highway near Bahawalpur, Pakistan, Sunday, June 25, 2017. (AP)
A doctor at Bahawalpur’s Victoria Hospital in south Punjab said the latest deaths occurred at a hospital in Multan where some of the 50 critically injured were taken, many of them suffering extensive burns.
A senior rescue official in the area said the death toll could rise further as dozens are still in critical condition.
Local news channels showed black smoke billowing skyward and scores of burned bodies, as well as rescue officials speeding the injured to hospital and army helicopters ferrying the wounded.
“I have never seen anything like it in my life. Victims trapped in the fireball. They were screaming for help,” said Abdul Malik, a police officer who was among the first to arrive on the scene of horror in Pakistan’s Punjab province.
When the flames subsided, he said, “we saw bodies everywhere. So many were just skeletons. The people who were alive were in really bad shape.”
About 30 motorcycles that villagers had used to rush to the site of the highway accident lay charred nearby along with cars, witnesses said. Local news channels showed black smoke billowing skyward and army helicopters taking away the injured.
As victims cried out for help, residents wandered through the area, looking for loved ones.
Zulkha Bibi searched for her two sons.
“Someone should tell me about my beloved sons. Where are they? Are they alive or are they no longer in this world? Please tell me,” she pleaded.
Many of the dead were burned beyond recognition, said Dr. Mohammad Baqar, a senior rescue official in the area. They will have to be identified through DNA.
The disaster came on the eve of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. While Saudi Arabia and most other Muslim countries celebrated the holiday Sunday, Pakistanis will mark it on Monday.
The fuel truck was traveling from the southern port city of Karachi to Lahore, the Punjab provincial capital, when the driver lost control and crashed on a highway outside Bahawalpur.
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