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Fuel tanker explosion kills 146 in Pakistan

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An oil tanker crashed and exploded on a road in Pakistan on Sunday, killing 146 people, many of whom were scooping leaking fuel before it ignited, government officials and rescue workers said.

The News Agency of Nigeria reported that the speeding tanker overturned on a sharp bend on a highway on the outskirts of the city of Bahawalpur.

The driver lost control when the vehicle blew a tyre, a provincial government spokesman said.

A large crowd of people gathered, many to collect fuel in containers, and the tanker exploded in a huge fireball about 45 minutes later.

Rescue workers said that about 80 people had been injured.

An estimated 20 children were among the dead, he said.

The accident happened the day before Pakistan celebrates the Eid el-Fitr festival, when families get together to celebrate the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

Police had tried to clear the area before the tanker exploded but people ignored them, Khan said, adding that the initial crash had blocked the road, causing a gridlock.

The driver of the tanker survived the accident and was taken into police custody, he said.

“People were collecting oil in bottles, cans and household utensils. We tried to get them to move back before the fire started but no one was listening,” Ahmed said.

He estimated that about 100 people from the small hamlet are missing.

“The day of judgment has arrived for our village,” he said.

According to initial reports, somebody tried “to light a cigarette,” said rescue services spokesman Jam Sajjad Hussain.

Police in the area could not be reached for immediate comment.

About 40 people with serious burns were airlifted to hospitals in the nearby city of Multan.

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