At least 140 people are believed to have been killed after a fuel tanker burst into flames near the Pakistani city of Ahmedpur East.
A crowd had gathered reportedly to collect fuel leaking from the overturned vehicle when it caught fire. Dozens are being treated in hospital and there are fears the death toll could rise further.
According to local reports, it appears the tanker blew a tyre while rounding a sharp bend in the road. The subsequent fire may have been sparked by someone lighting a cigarette, rescue services say.
At least six cars and 12 motorcycles were burnt, Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper reports. Some of the victims may only be identified by DNA sampling as bodies were badly burned in the incident, reports say.
“People living in roadside villages, carrying domestic pots rushed to the scene to collect oil and they also made phone calls to their relatives living in other villages to immediately come to collect oil,” Police sources told Pakistani government news agency APP.
The tanker had been carrying 25,000 litres (5,500 gallons) of oil from Karachi to Lahore.
Traffic police had tried in vain to keep the crowd away from the tanker as people, including women and children, continued collecting oil in pots, the sources said.
“Suddenly, [a] huge fire erupted in the oil tanker which engulfed all people standing around the vehicle,” the police sources added.
“According to the initial reports, somebody tried to light a cigarette,” igniting spilt fuel, Jam Sajjad Hussain, spokesman for the rescue workers service, was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying.
Emergency services struggled to find burn units to treat the injured, APP says.