An oil tanker in Pakistan that overturned on the road burst into flames on Sunday, killing about 150 people, many of them women and children who’d run toward the leaking tanker with buckets to collect the spilt fuel. It’s still not known what caused the spark that started the explosion, although early reports indicate it may have come from a lit cigarette.
The tanker was on its way to from the port city of Karachi to the region’s capital, Lahore, when it entered a sharp bend in the highway. The driver reportedly lost control, blew a tire and overturned near the city of Bahawalpur. The tanker was carrying about 5,500 gallons of oil, and in a poor region of the country, where people survive on $3 a day, the prospect of free oil drew a crowd. A loudspeaker atop a nearby mosque alerted the village to the leaking fuel, and hundreds rushed to fill jerry cans and buckets. Local media arrived to film the people scooping up the oil, and while police tried to hold everyone back, more rushed in, some coming from neighboring villages on their motorcycles.
The fire spread rapidly, and local media showed a giant fireball erupt and give way to thick black plumes of smoke. The mosque that had previously alerted people to the overturned tanker later called in villagers to help put out the fire. But the flames were too intense. “I could hear people screaming but I couldn’t get to them,” one man told the Associated Press.