As Scavengers Flocked to Wrecked Oil Truck, an Explosion

At least 153 dead in Pakistan after someone lit a cigarette
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 25, 2017 9:03 AM CDT
As Scavengers Flocked to Wrecked Oil Rig, an Explosion
In this image taken from video, black smoke rises from oil tanker on road in Bahawalpur, Pakistan, Sunday, June 25, 2017. An overturned oil tanker burst into flames in Pakistan on Sunday, killing people who had rushed to the scene of the highway accident to gather leaking fuel.   (AAJ News via AP Video)

It was a simple highway accident: A tanker blows a tire, and overturns. But it overturned Sunday in Bahawalpur, Pakistan, carrying 6,600 gallons of oil, and surrounding villagers " carrying domestic pots rushed to the scene to collect oil and they also made phone calls to their relatives living in other villages to ... come to collect oil" police told state-run media, per NPR. According to a rescuer, "somebody tried to light a cigarette," which caught fire, exploded the tanker, and "engulfed all people standing around the vehicle," reports the AP. At least 153 are dead, a toll expected to rise as dozens more remain critically injured. "The fire moved so fast," said one survivor who lost two cousins.

Others describe an unbearable scene: "I could hear people screaming but I couldn't get to them," says one would-be rescuer, while a cop says that "I have never seen anything like it in my life. Victims trapped in the fireball. They were screaming for help." A local doctor says most victims suffered burns on 80% of their bodies, while another says that many of the dead were burned beyond recognition and will have to be identified via DNA testing. (Read more oil tanker stories.)

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