At least 150 people were killed and 100 more injured in eastern Pakistan when an overturned tanker truck exploded while villagers were trying to collect fuel that had spilled onto the roadway.
“It is a horrible tragedy,” said Makhdoom Syed Hassan Gillani, the parliamentary representative of Ahmedpur East, where the disaster occurred.
“You can blame poverty 100 percent,” he said. “It was poverty. It was greed. It was ignorance.”
The tanker blew a tire, authorities said, leading to the crash.
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After the tanker crashed, it began leaking its 5,500 gallons of fuel. Although police tried to keep people from the wreck, residents of the community used anything they could find to scoop up fuel, which is rare and expensive in Ahmedpur East.
According to police official Muhammad Rizwan, the police had “kept on telling people to leave the crash site, but people wouldn’t listen and more kept coming.”
“We knew it was dangerous,” he said, “and if there were more cars and bikes, the casualties would have been much higher.”
A spark then ignited the fuel. A rescue services spokesman told the BBC that someone dropped a cigarette, triggering the fire that led to the tanker exploding.
“The first thing came in my mind, a bomb went off, as security situation in the country was already tense,” said eyewitness Shahid Iqbal.
“Then people started shouting it’s a tanker that has caught fire. We started moving close to the site but the fireball that was there; there was nothing we could do. We couldn’t go close to it,” he added.
At least 73 motorbikes and several cars were also destroyed.
Abdul Malik, a local police officer who was among the first to arrive, said he had “never seen anything like it in my life.”
“Victims trapped in the fireball. They were screaming for help,” he said.
When the fire subsided, “we saw bodies everywhere, so many were just skeletons,” he added.
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