At least 152 people were burnt to death and over 140 more were injured after an oil tanker slid of Ahmedpur Sharqi Road a main thoroughfare. The
tanker exploded some 30 minutes after it had slid of the road but only after a mass rush of local people ensued all intent on collecting spilled fuel.
The incident occurred within Bahawalpur’s Ahmedpur East Town, on Sunday morning around 8am (4am GMT). Injured people were taken to Bahawal Victoria
Hospital and and District Headquarters Hospital Sharqia in critical condition, but neither hospital has a special burns unit and the death toll is
expected to rise. Most of those taken to the hospitals had received at least 70 percent burn injuries
The Chief Minister for the Punjab Shabaz Sharif visited the area within hours of the tragedy. On behalf of the government he promised 2 million
rupees compensation for each person who died and 1 million rupees to every person injured by the explosion.
Local people, had rushed to the site with any utensils they could find to collect oil spilling from the overturned tanker.
Eyewitnesses spoke with our officer Ambar Saroya and said that some people in the vicinity were smoking cigarettes, which could have ignited the inferno.
Ambar Saroya, Zeeshan Ghulzar, Sulieman Masih before Bahawal Victoria Hospital where they met the admitted victims
The charred wreckage of dozens of motorcycles and cars could be seen scattered on the highway, along with kitchen utensils, pots, water coolers, jerrycans
and buckets which victims had brought to collect the petrol.
The Pakistani Army has stated that helicopters had been sent to evacuate the wounded and hospitals were put on high alert. The nearest burn centre
is believed to be more than 150 kilometres away.
According to rescue sources, identities of the deceased cannot be ascertained without obtaining their DNA sample, as their bodies were badly burnt
in the incident.
Although the inferno has been controlled, the road has not been cleared yet. Besides, rescue work was under way as some of the bodies stuck in the
wreck were being taken out.
The most severely injured are likely to be shifted to Nishtar Hospital in Multan and Sheikh Zayed Medical college and Hospital as facilities close
to the accident site are not equipped enough to treat patients with critical burn injuries.
Local people have all confirmed that the driver of the vehicle and the police tried to prevent villagers from collecting the fuel, explaining that
it was contaminated and would be of no use to them. Moreover they clearly explained the fuel was highly flammable and could combust at any time.
Despite fervent remonstrations the locals continued to collect fuel a reaction that is blamed on the extreme poverty and regular fuel shortages
in the area.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expressed his grief and directed the government of Punjab province to provide “full medical assistance”.
British Pakistani Christian Association, officers were one of the first teams to arrive on the ground to provide assistance. They helped with
food and counselling for many of the victims and their families, visiting hospitals on the first few days and yesterday they visited the graveyard
of those who died in the tragedy and sprinkled rose petals over each grave as we grieved those who lost their lives in what would have been an extremely
painful death. Where given an opportunity our team of volunteers offered Christian prayers to console the families of the victims.
BPCA officer Ambar Saroya today covered the graves of the victims with rose petals to express our grief at the beautiful lives lost. Many of the victims were young children asked to help older family members collect fuel.
A copy of the official list of casualties:
Today we have been advised that the death toll has now risen to 165 but more fatalities are expected.
To date no Christian victim has been named and this is no surprise as their are few Christians in the area. However our team joined a church
is saying prayers for all the victims of this latest tragedy to hit Pakistan.
Many families are in a limbo period between receiving the government compensation promised which could take months to arrive and have asked for help towards the lost wages that many will have to suffer due to bread-winners having been burnt alive. We would like to be able to offer a small hardship fund to cover the bills of victims who find themselves in a time of economic hardship. If you would like to help please donate by clicking (here)
A video of one of our visits to a local hospital can be viewed below: