BAHAWALPUR OIL TANKER INFERNO
Everything burnt to a cinder
PRC at its best; on-the-spot-first-aid provided to 12 victims n ERT members assist in evacuation of 35 critically injured people n RFL officers and volunteers provide psychosocial support to patients and distraught families
Ali Raza Mukhtar
The fire that took hold of an oil tanker in Ahmedpur Sharqia tehsil of Bahawalpur Division on Sunday, June 25 has long died out, but its victims are still dying a painful death in different hospitals one after the other. The death toll rose to 219 on July 10.
Soon after the tragic incident, the Pakistan Red Crescent (PRC) sprang into action and its Punjab branch detailed RFL (Restoring Family Links) officers at hospitals in Bahawalpur, Multan and Lahore where the patients were brought for treatment.
The PRC District First Aid Trainers also reached the site along with volunteers.
First-aid was provided to 12 victims on the spot, while 13 Emergency Response Team (ERT) members assisted in the evacuation of 35 critically injured persons to the Victoria Hospital, Bahawalpur.
The RFL (Restoring Family Links) officers and volunteers provided psychosocial support to the patients and their distraught families.
How the tragedy happened: The oil tanker carrying 25,000 liters (6,600 gallons) of petrol veered off the road and came on its sideways. As the tanker sat on the side of the road, fuel began to leak out in large pools tempting people from nearby villages to collect it.
While the people were collecting fuel in cans, buckets and whatever came in their hands, a deafening explosion tore the container open like a soda can, engulfing everything around, including women and children.
Many of the victims were burnt to death immediately, while others succumbed to injuries one after the other at different hospitals. Dozens of victims receiving minor burns are being discharged after treatment. Many victims died beyond recognition and their bodies will be handed over to their families for burial after DNA testing.
The tanker was surrounded by the husks of burned-out motorbikes and automobiles, their windows and tires melted away from heat. Bodies were also pulled from cars and a motorcycle rickshaw.
INFORMATION GATHERING: An RFL officer of PRC Punjab branch collects information about a victim.
ON THE SCENE: PRC volunteers at Bahawalpur Victoria Hospital.
BEYOND RECOGNITION: A view of husks of burnt-out vehicles.