An overturned oil tanker has burst into flames in Pakistan after a person tried to light a cigarette nearby, killing at least 123 people who had rushed to the scene of the highway accident to gather leaking fuel, an official says.
About 80 people were injured, with many suffering serious burns.
The tanker overturned after trying to make a sharp turn on the national highway on the outskirts of the city of Bahawalpur, about 100 kilometres southwest of Multan.
The tanker 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 passers by had started gathering fuel when the tanker exploded, burning everybody on and around the spot,” provincial government spokesman Malik Muhammad Ahmed Khan said.
Imran Shah, a spokesman 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.
Residents were told of the leaking fuel over a loudspeaker atop the local mosque, deputy commissioner of Bahawalpur, Rana Mohammad Salim, said.
Eyewitnesses said about 30 motorcycles that had carried villagers to the accident site lay in charred ruins nearby.
Eight other vehicles were destroyed, they said.
Firefighters fought the flames for over two hours before extinguishing the fire.
Serious burn victims, several in critical condition, were airlifted by helicopter to hospitals in Bahawalpur and nearby cities for treatment.
The dead included men, women and children, Mr Salim said.
Rizwan Naseer, the head of the Punjab province’s rescue services, said many of the bodies were burned beyond recognition.
The prime minister’s office said the Punjab provincial government had been directed to provide full medical assistance.
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 Sunday, Pakistanis will celebrate on Monday.