At least 148 people were killed as they rushed to collect spilled fuel after an oil tanker overturned and exploded in Pakistan, rescue workers have said.
Some 140 more people were wounded, including 40 in critical condition, said Mohammad Baqar, an official with local rescue services, adding that the toll was expected to rise.
The tanker overturned after trying to make a sharp turn on a national highway on the outskirts of the city of Bahawalpur.
It was driving from the southern port city of Karachi to Lahore, the Punjab provincial capital, when the driver lost control and crashed.
“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.
Many of the bodies were burned beyond recognition, said Rizwan Naseer, head of Punjab province’s rescue services. Imran Shah, a spokesperson for the highway police, told a local TV channel police moved quickly to redirect traffic but could not stop the scores of villagers who raced to collect the fuel.
Firefighters fought the flames for over two hours before extinguishing the fire.
Army helicopters were dispatched to transport casualties to hospitals, army spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor said in a tweet.
The disaster came on the eve of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.
While Saudi Arabia and most other Muslim countries celebrated the holiday on Sunday, Pakistanis will celebrate on Monday.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, “expressed deep grief over the heavy loss of life”, his office said in a statement.