Sixteen more people have died in hospital following Sunday’s oil tanker explosion on a main highway in Pakistan.
The truck carrying fuel overturned on a main highway linking Karachi to Lahore on June 25. It exploded minutes later as residents from a nearby village gathered to collect fuel from the vehicle.
“The death toll from the tanker fire incident is now 205 after the expiry of more injured people,” senior local administration Rao Tasleem in Bahawalpur, the nearest city, told the AFP news agency on Monday.
A doctor at Bahawalpur’s Victoria Hospital, Asim Bukhari, put the toll at 206 after a new death later on Monday, though that was unconfirmed by official government authorities.
Following the blast, local officials had given a death toll of at least 153.
Locals said that several people who were injured in the incident lost their lives due to unavailability of burns units at the nearby hospitals as dozens were transported to Multan and state capital Lahore hospitals for better treatment.
Some 125 unidentified victims have already been buried following a mass funeral at the site of the fire as their bodies were badly charred and beyond recognition.
Motorway police spokesman Imran Shah has said that a government inquiry into the incident had found at least five police officials guilty of hiding information.
According to initial investigations, a cigarette is suspected to have caused the massive blaze.
Analysts said the behaviour of the crowds – scavenging for fuel – is not surprising, given the problem of fuel shortages and poverty.
“If you go to these areas of Bahawalpur … the poverty level here rises up to 65 percent at times,” Sabir Shah, a journalist at GEO TV in Lahore, told Al Jazeera last month.
“In these conditions, with these figures, how can you expect people not to collect cooking fuel for themselves? This petrol is being used as cooking fuel by many people in nearby fields.”
The tragedy marked a grim start to Eid al-Fitr, the celebrations marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Pakistan has a poor record of fatal traffic accidents due to poor roads, badly maintained vehicles and reckless driving.