At least 148 people – including children – have been killed after an oil tanker carrying 40,000 litres of fuel flipped over and burst into flames on a highway in Pakistan.
Residents had flocked to the tanker with jerry cans, buckets and other containers to collect leaking fuel from it after it overturned.
It was travelling from the southern port city of Karachi to Lahore when the driver lost control and it crashed near the city of Bahawalpur at around 6.30am.
Some reports suggested the tanker had suffered a burst tyre. The driver survived and is in custody.
Police had tried to seal off the area but became overwhelmed by the scores of people trying to reach the vehicle.
Officials said many of the victims were beyond recognition and that DNA tests were being carried out to identify the dead, adding that the number of fatalities was likely to rise.
The fire erupted after an oil tanker turned over and “victims rushed to collect spilt fuel”, senior local government official Rana Mohammad Saleem Afzal told state television.
He said residents were told about the leaking oil tanker over a loudspeaker at a local mosque.
“After about 10 minutes the tanker exploded in a huge fireball and enveloped the people collecting petrol. It was not clear how the fire started,” said regional police chief Raja Riffat.
“According to the initial reports, somebody tried to light a cigarette. The spilt fuel caught fire, leading to the tanker’s explosion,” Jam Sajjad Hussain, spokesman for the rescue services, added.
Officials said around 140 others were injured in the explosion and were airlifted to nearby hospitals by army helicopters, some in a critical condition having suffered more than 80% burns to their bodies.
Flames and large plumes of black smoke could be seen from a distance as firefighters battled the blaze for two hours before it was out.
Witnesses described seeing the charred ruins of up to 30 motorbikes that had carried residents to the crash site.
Almost a dozen other vehicles were also destroyed by the inferno.
The tragedy happened on the eve of Eid ul-Fitr celebrations marking the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan in Pakistan.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expressed his grief and ordered provincial leaders to ensure victims received “full medical assistance”.
Pakistan has a poor record of fatal traffic accidents due to bad road conditions, poorly maintained vehicles and reckless driving.
In 2015, more than 60 people, including children, died when the bus they were travelling in collided with an oil tanker.