The country was still reeling from the tragic bombings in Quetta and Parachinar in which more than 90 people perished when another struck on Saturday. As many as 130 people were burnt alive with a similar number landing in hospitals with severe burns after an oil tanker caught fire while travelling from Karachi to Lahore on the main highway near Bahawalpur. The tanker carrying 40,000 liters of fuel overturned after trying to make a sharp turn.
As the tanker over turned the fuel started leaking, the leaking fuel caught the attentions of locals and a large number of people quickly gathered around the tanker to collect the leaking fuel. A large number of motorists also stopped in addition to the locals to take away the leaking fuel. Video that surfaced in the aftermath of the tragic event showed a large number of people filling the leaked fuel in bottles and buckets. Motorway Police spokesman Imran Shah said police raced to the scene and tried to keep people away from the tanker but they were ignored as residents continued filling their containers with fuel.. As per eye witnesses the leaking fuel caught fire after someone dropped a burning cigarette on the ground, people gathered around the tanker were already doused in fuel and with the drop of the cigarette the fuel caught fire with a huge bang as a result most of those nearby were burnt to death with seconds.
The unfortunate part about the tragic event is that it could easily have been avoided. The poverty stricken people should have been stopped from being near to what can only be described as a ticking time bomb. In the aftermath of the incident the poor healthcare facilities once again become the topic of debate. No hospitals nearby had burn units equipped to treat the patients. According to a recent newspaper report data from the Bahawalpur Division, during 2016 over one thousand patients suffered from burn injuries were admitted in Bahawalpur Victoria Hospital. Five hundred and sixty eight patients were admitted in Shaikh Zayed Hospital, Rahim Yar Khan and seven hundred and fifty five in DHQ, Bahawalnagar while more than 6000 received treatment from OPDs in Bahawalpur division. Shockingly, forty five percent of such patients lost their lives due to insufficient medical facilities for treating burn injuries. The report cited a senior official of saying that preference will be given to include the project of burns unit in the next financial year.
The issue of non availability of facilities to burn victims across Punjab has been raised time and again. Currently the burn care facilities in the province are not sufficient to treat patients. A recent report said that burn care facilities are lacking even in Lahore and at times patients with serious injuries are transferred to Islamabad. The situation is not much better in other provinces.
There is an urgent need to prioritize the health care sector.