BAHAWALPUR: The death toll of oil tanker fire incident rose to 140 as more burnt persons succumbed to their severe injuries at Bahawal Victoria Hospital (BVH) on Sunday.
Around 150 people, including women and children, were also critically injured in the fire incdient.
The huge fire erupted in an oil tanker which had slipped from the road and overturned in Ahmedpur Sharqia Tehsil of Bahawalpur District.
Thousands liters of oil started leaking from the tanker and people from nearby villages rushed to collect it. Suddenly, fire broke out in the oil tanker and engulfed all people, engaged in collecting oil.
Haroon-ur-Rasheed who is an ex-senior police official and an expert to deal with emergency and rescue operations in Bahawalpur, told APP that some people who had gathered at the scene to collect oil, started smoking cigarette and used their mobile phones which might have ignited the fire.
“Yes, sparking from cell phones could ignite fire,” he said said, adding that batteries fitted inside the tankers could also spark and ignite fire in leaked oil.
He urged the authorities concerned to keep in view all aspects while conducting inquiry into the incident. “I myself inspected the burnt oil tanker and it seems to be a fire incident,” he said.
The ISPR Bahawalpur sources said that following the orders of Chief of Army Staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Pakistan Army immediately launched rescue and relief operation to shift the bodies and injured to hospital.
They said that four helicopters of Army Aviation, army ambulance and army personnel were participating in the rescue operation.
“Army helicopters have shifted 51 injured from BVH Bahawalpur to burns unit at Nishtar Hospital Multan,” they said, adding that the injured suffering from critical burn injuries could also be shifted to Lahore and PIMS Hospital in Islamabad where burn unit facility is available.
They further said that the injured were also brought at Combined Military Hospital (CMH) Bahawalpur where army doctors provided them with emergency medical aid.
They said that Corps Commander and senior military officials visited the hospitals and enquired after the health of the injured and directed the authorities concerned to provide all necessary health facilities to the wounded.
“Crops Commander Bahawalpur and senior officials are themselves inspecting rescue and relief operation being carried out by the Pakistan Army in Ahmedpur Sharqia, Bahawalpur and Multan,” they said.
District Emergency Officer, Rescue 1122, Dr. Asif Raheem Channar told media persons that the ambulances of 1122 and other vehicles had shifted 123 bodies to the hospitals which were completely burnt down and beyond the identification.
He said that DNA tests were needed for the identification of the bodies. “Bodies could be handed over to the heirs after DNA tests as they have been completely burnt down,” he said.
The bodies and injured were shifted to Ahmedpur Sharqia Tehsil Headquarters hospital (THQ), BVH Bahawalpur and Nishtar Hospital.
The hospital sources said that more injured have succumbed to their wound at the hospitals and death toll has risen to 140.
Deputy Commissioner Bahawalpur, Rana Muhammad Saleem Afzal said that a Lahore-bound oil tanker had slipped from the road and overturned. Resultantly, oil spilled out of the vehicle.
He said hundreds of people from nearby villages, riding on bikes and cars, rushed to the scene to collect oil.
The district chief further said that suddenly huge fire erupted in the oil tanker which engulfed hundreds of people, engaged in collecting oil.
Over 120 people including women and children were killed on the spot and several others were injured in the inferno, he said. Several injured succumbed to their injuries at the hospital due to critical condition of deep burn wounds, he added.
The police sources told that oil tanker, having number plate of Lasbela No. TL J-352 and carrying 25,000 liters of oil, was on its way from Karachi to Lahore when it skidded off the road and overturned in Kachi Pul area, some eight kilometres off Ahmedpur Sharqia city.
They said that the oil tanker skidded off as the driver was in sleepy condition who soon after the accident, reportedly managed to escape from the scene.
“People living in roadside villages and working at nearby mango gardens, carrying domestic pots, rushed to the scene to collect oil and they also made phone calls from their cell phones to their relatives living in other villages to immediately come to collect oil,” they said.
Rizwan, a senior official of Motorway Police, said people, gathering around the oil tanker to collect oil, did not respond to the appeals of Motorway police who were urging them to keep them off the vehicle as they feared that it may catch fire.
“Motorway Police reached the scene and its staff and other persons, asked the people to keep them away from the tanker as fire could erupt in the vehicle, but people including women and children, did not respond to the request and continued collecting oil into pots,” he said, adding that suddenly, huge fire erupted in the oil tanker which engulfed all people standing around the vehicle.
The Rescue 1122 and other ambulance services rushed to the scene to shift the injured to hospital and several injured succumbed to their burn injuries on the way to hospital.
The police said that over 75 motorcycles and six vehicles were also burnt down as many persons, riding bikes, had reached to collect it and some other vehicles were passing through the area. “Bodies of some persons were taken out from burnt cars and motorcycle rickshaw,” they added.
Emergency has been declared at all hospitals and rescue efforts were underway to shift the injured to Bahawalpur Victoria Hospital Bahawalpur, Combined Military Hospital Bahawalpur and Nishtar Hospital Bahawalpur.
Chief Minister Punjab, who also visited hospitals in Bahawalpur, has ordered conducting immediate inquiry into the incident.
He expressed his deep grief and sorrow over heavy loss of life and directed the officials concerned to ensure rescue and relief operation and to provide all available health treatment facility to the victims.—APP