ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — An oil tanker truck crashed on a busy highway in Pakistan Sunday, killing at least 153 people when it exploded as crowds rushed to the scene to collect leaking fuel.
Most of the dead were local villagers who came by to look at the wrecked tanker and motorists who stopped and attempted to gather fuel in containers.
Roads in the country were busier than usual because of the Eid holiday.
The tanker overturned on a sharp bend on the outskirts of the city of Bahawalpur.
Dr. Javed Iqbal at Bahawalpur's Victoria Hospital in south Punjab told the Associated Press that the latest deaths occurred at a hospital in Multan where some of the 50 critically injured, many of whom suffered extensive burns, had been taken.
Mohammad Baqar, a senior rescue official in the area, had said earlier that the death toll was 148, with dozens more wounded in critical condition, The Associated Press reported.
“Residents of the nearby Ramzanpur Joya village rushed to the site with buckets, and a large number of people on motorcycles also started collecting the spilling fuel,” regional police chief Raja Riffat told a news conference.
“After about 10 minutes the tanker exploded in a huge fireball and enveloped those nearby.”
He said it was not clear how the fire started, although reports suggested it could have been a spark from a cigarette or a motorcycle.
Imran Shah, a spokesman for highway police, said authorities had tried to keep onlookers away from the site but were ignored.
The driver of the tanker survived the accident and had been taken into police custody, he said.
Baqar said many of the bodies were burned beyond recognition and will have to be identified through DNA testing.
Some of the most badly burned were evacuated by army helicopters to Multan, about 60 miles away. The dead included men, women and children.