MULTAN, Pakistan – Pakistan’s prime minister cut short a trip abroad to rush to the side of victims of a massive fuel tanker fire as authorities on Monday raised the death toll from the blaze to 157.
The truck, carrying some 25,000 liters (6,600 gallons) of gasoline, was traveling from the southern port city of Karachi to Lahore, the Punjab provincial capital, when the driver lost control and crashed on a highway outside the town of Bahawalpur early on Sunday.
Alerted by an announcement over a mosque loudspeaker that an overturned tanker truck was leaking fuel, scores of villagers rushed to the scene to collect the spilled fuel when the blaze ignited. The wreck had exploded, engulfing people in flames as they screamed in terror.
Dr. Nahid Ahmed at the Nishter Hospital in the city of Multan, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) away from the site of the fire, said four of the victims that were brought from Bahawalpur had died overnight, bringing the death toll to 157. Ahmed said 50 more severely burned victims were being treated at his hospital.
Rescue official Mohammad Baqar at the Bahawalpur hospital said 20 more victims were transported on Monday by a military C-130 plane to Lahore for better medical care.
Prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who visited the Victoria Hospital in Bahawalpur on Monday, ordered that more of those most critically hurt be transferred to bigger hospitals in the area, Baqar said.