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Death toll from Pakistan truck explosion rises to 123

Reports say a crowd gathered to collect fuel leaking from the overturned vehicle when it caught fire.

Pakistani flag

JOHANNESBURG – The death toll from an explosion in Pakistan has risen to 123 people, with a truck transporting oil bursting into flames near the city of Bahawalpur.

Reports say a crowd gathered to collect fuel leaking from the overturned vehicle when it caught fire.

Dozens of people are being treated in hospital.

A large crowd of people gathered at the scene when it caught fire and exploded, rescue workers said, adding about 80 people had been injured.

“People of the area and passersby had started gathering fuel when the tanker exploded, burning everybody on and around the spot,” provincial government spokesman Malik Muhammad Ahmed Khan told Reuters.

Serious burn victims, several in critical condition, were airlifted by helicopter to hospitals in Bahawalpur and nearby cities for treatment.

“According to the initial reports, somebody tried to light a cigarette, and when the spilt fuel caught fire, leading to the tanker’s explosion,” Jam Sajjad Hussain, spokesman for the rescue workers service said.

Firefighters fought the flames for over two hours before extinguishing the fire.

The prime minister’s office said the Punjab provincial government had been directed to provide full medical assistance.

“Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif has expressed deep grief over the heavy loss of life in the unfortunate accident of oil tanker fire at Ahmad Pur Sharqia, Bahawalpur,” the statement said.

(Edited by Leeto M Khoza)