157 Dead in Pakistan Fuel Truck Fire 06/26 06:09
MULTAN, Pakistan (AP) -- Pakistan's prime minister cut short a trip abroad
to rush to the side of victims of a massive fuel tanker fire as authorities on
Monday raised the death toll from the blaze to 157.
The truck, carrying some 25,000 liters (6,600 gallons) of gasoline, 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 the town of Bahawalpur early on Sunday.
Alerted by an announcement over a mosque loudspeaker that an overturned
tanker truck was leaking fuel, scores of villagers rushed to the scene to
collect the spilled fuel when the blaze ignited. The wreck had exploded,
engulfing people in flames as they screamed in terror.
Dr. Nahid Ahmed at the Nishter Hospital in the city of Multan, about 100
kilometers (60 miles) away from the site of the fire, said four of the victims
that were brought from Bahawalpur had died overnight, bringing the death toll
to 157. Ahmed said 50 more severely burned victims were being treated at his
Rescue official Mohammad Baqar at the Bahawalpur hospital said 20 more
victims were transported on Monday by a military C-130 plane to Lahore for
better medical care.
Prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who visited the Victoria Hospital in Bahawalpur
on Monday, ordered that more of those most critically hurt be transferred to
bigger hospitals in the area, Baqar said.
Sharif cut short his trip abroad and rushed back home, reaching Bahwalpur on
Monday to visit the victims and console the affected families. Sharif also
announced 2 million rupees --- almost $20,000 --- as financial assistance for
each family that had lost a family member in the highway inferno. Sharif also
handed over checks of 1 million rupees ($10,000) for each burned victim being
treated at the hospital in Bahawalpur.
"This is not compensation, no compensation is possible for precious human
life, but it is to help the affected families in distress," Sharif said,
expressing his prayers for those killed and for a speedy recovery of the burned
Many of the bodies were burned beyond recognition and will have to be
identified through DNA testing, said Baqar.
"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
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."
Some of the most badly burned were immediately evacuated by army helicopters
to Multan. The dead included men, women and children.
The disaster struck on the eve of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr that
follows the holy month of Ramadan. While Saudi Arabia and most other Muslim
countries started celebrating the holiday Sunday, Pakistanis are marking it on
The scope of Sunday's tragedy was a first in Pakistan but in cases of
massive oil leaks in impoverished countries, many of the poorest and least
educated often rush to the scene to collect the spilled fuel, unaware of the
grave danger they face. In recent years, such incidents have been reported in
Nigeria and Sudan.