With the death of 10 more people, the toll in Pakistan’s oil tanker fire rose to 175 today, making it one of the deadliest accidents in the country. The patients breathed their last at Lahore, Multan and Faisalabad burn centres. “The death toll in the oil tanker inferno today rose to 175 as 10 more succumbed to their injuries. The toll may continue to rise as most of the injured, over 60 people, have received 60 to 100 per cent burn injuries,” a senior official Jam Sajjad told PTI. Quoting doctors, he said “it will be a miracle if they survived”.
The patients having 60 to 100 per cent burns are being anaesthetised, Sajjad said. A senior doctor at the Jinnah Hospital in Lahore said many burnt patients are not kept in isolation rooms because of shortage of such rooms in burn centres in the hospitals in Punjab province. “Such patients are vulnerable to infection which is most common cause of mortality in burn patients,” the doctor said. At least 120 people including women and children were killed on the spot and 140 injured last week a day before Eid when they rushed to collect leaking fuel from a crashed oil tanker in Bahawalpur, some 400 km from Lahore.
The tanker, which was headed for Lahore, overturned on the national highway after one of its tyres burst and the driver lost control over it. The driver, who died yesterday, could not record his statement as he had received 90 per cent burn injuries, a Punjab government spokesman said. So far, 125 people have been laid to rest after establishing their identity through DNA test, he said, adding that the identification of others was underway.
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Video images of the people gathered to collect petrol from the overturned oil tanker emerged showing young and old people filling their bikes with the spilled oil and collecting it in bottles. The leaking fuel was even flowing along the highway in the fields. A number of people were seen sitting near the fields collecting fuel in cans and bottles. Suddenly, the tanker exploded and within seconds the fire erupted giving no chance to the people present there to leave the place.
According to a preliminary report, the tragedy might have been averted had the motorway police reached there on time and cordoned off the area. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said “illiteracy and poverty” is a reason behind this incident. The preliminary report also said: “The fire broke out after someone lit a cigarette among the victims and threw its butt”. A video before the incident also emerged on social media showing that a man was smoking a cigarette and he inadvertently threw its butt.