An overturned oil tanker exploded in a huge fireball in Pakistan Sunday, killing at least 123 people and injuring scores as crowds scavenging for fuel ignored warnings to stay clear, officials and witnesses said.
Rescue 1122 official Jam Sajjad said 140 people were killed in the fire and the toll may rise further as a number of injured are in critical condition.
According to reports, the fire was sparked after local residents scrambled to collect fuel from an overturned vehicle which skidded off the national highway in Ahmed Pur Sharqia burning majority alive. Dozens of people were badly injured in the massive blaze as they tried to collect fuel leaking from the vehicle.
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Numerous dead were burned beyond recognition, said Dr. Mohammad Baqar, a senior rescue official in the area.
When the flames subsided, he said, "we saw bodies everywhere".
The hospital, which is treating numerous wounded, added that over 100 people were injured in the explosion, in a statement Sunday.
Firefighters battled the flames for well over two hours to extinguish the flames. Women and children came in overwhelming numbers to collect oil and police warnings were not heeded which eventually led to the mishap.
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According to local sources, most of the victims were residents of nearby areas who were collecting fuel from the oil tanker, which had overturned after falling off a national highway on Sunday morning. The site is littered with numerous bodies burned beyond recognition, said eyewitnesses.
He said it was "greed" of the villagers which took them to the "valley of death".
"Someone should tell me about my beloved sons". Different newspapers are giving out different figures of people who died in the fire.
Both Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif have expressed deep sorrows over the loss of so many precious lives in the incident. He also deployed Punjab government's helicopter to aid the rescue operation.
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Reports say Home Minister Bhupendra Singh had initially issued a strong denial about police's involvement, but confirmed it later. He also announced that the agricultural land would be acquired only after the consent of the farmer.
The tragedy happened on the eve of Eid ul-Fitr celebrations marking the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan in Pakistan.
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