On Sunday, a fuel tanker in east Pakistan exploded, killing at least 140 people and inuring more than 100 others. A state of emergency has been declared in Bahawalpur, where the horrific accident occurred.
The fuel tanker exploded after it made a sharp turn and veered off the side of the road. The truck turned over and leaked a significant amount of fuel. It then exploded, killing several people within the blast radius. Nearby residents and passing commuters rushed to the scene to collect the fuel in large pots so that the explosive fires stopped spreading. According to a report by APP, the explosion may have been triggered by individuals in the area smoking cigarettes as they documented the fuel tanker accident on their cell phones. Police are even claiming that sparks from the cell phones themselves could have triggered the explosion near the turned-over, fuel-leaking tanker. But for now, the cause of the explosion is unknown.
“Officers with the National Highways and Motorway Police urged villagers to stay away from the vehicle, but to no avail,” reports CNN, citing APP’s discussions with police. “The tanker was carrying 25,000 liters (6,600 gallons) of fuel from Karachi to Lahore, roughly 440 kilometers (273 miles) northeast of Bawalpahur.”
“Nishtar Hospital, which is treating many of the wounded, said in a statement that more than 100 people were injured in the blast,” adds CNN. “Bahawalpur's Victoria Hospital said it was treating 40 victims, all of whom had suffered burns on at least 70% of their bodies.”
The accident has shaken the country to its core.
Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif expressed "deep grief over the heavy loss of life” and “directed provincial government to provide full medical assistance to the injured with burns," according to a statement provided by his office.
The U.S. embassy in Islamabad has extended its support to Pakistan as it looks to survey the damage of the tragedy.