Ahmedpur Sharqia Inferno: Death toll rises to 140

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APP07-25 BAHAWALPUR: June 25 – A view of burnt motorcycles and vehicle on the spot after oil tanker caught fire on national highway in Ahmedpur Sharqia area while people collecting oil, spill from the oil tanker which overturned resulting 120 person died and 200 injured in this incident. APP photo by Hassan Bukhari

BAHAWALPUR, June 25 (APP): 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.