KARACHI: A deadly road accident between an oil tanker and passenger coach late Saturday night left at least 62 dead with scores wounded as both vehicles caught fire, hospital officials said.
“We have received more than 57 bodies but the death toll may rise as most of them are completely burnt and stuck to each other,” Doctor Semi Jamali at Karachi's Jinnah hospital said.
Jamali said the bodies of at least six children were stuck to women who may have been their mothers, adding it was impossible to separate the remains.
“They are beyond recognition, they can only be identified by DNA test,” she said.
Gul Hassan, a resident of Karachi, said he lost nine relatives including the 80-year-old head of the family and a two-year-old child.
The dead also included two women and another child, Hassan said.
“They were travelling in the same bus. I cannot recognise any of them, all the bodies are completely burnt,” he said.
The overloaded bus, carrying more than 60 passengers, was en route to the town of Shikarpur from the southern port city of Karachi when the collision occurred.
“The bus and all passengers were so badly burnt that we have to carry out DNA tests for identification,” Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon told reporters.
Television channels showed live footage from the fiery crash site where rescue workers were busily evacuating bodies and any injured.
Earlier, senior police official Rao Mohammad Anwaar said the bus “hit the oil tanker, which according to initial reports was coming in the wrong direction” and caught fire.
Another senior police official, Aamir Shiekh said an investigation has been launched but it appeared the poor condition of the single track road also contributed to the cause of the accident.
“We are trying to ascertain if the driver of the oil tanker was solely at fault or whether the bus driver also showed negligence,” Anwaar said.
A few passengers escaped unhurt after they jumped out of the bus windows, police official Mohammad Jan said.
It was the second major fatal crash in Sindh province in less than three months.
According to Karachi Commissioner Shoaib Siddiqui, the crash was the result of negligence on the part of the oil tanker driver. Due to the presence of petrol, Siddiqui said the flames were difficult to control.
One survivor said that the passenger bus was overcrowded, a common practice amongst local public transport operators in the absence of safety regulations.
Pakistan has an appalling record of fatal traffic accidents due to poor roads, badly maintained vehicles and reckless driving. Crashes killing dozens of people are not uncommon.
Close to 9,000 road accidents are reported to the police every year since 2011, killing over 4,500 people on average, according to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS).
In November last year, 58 people died in a bus crash in Karachi owing to the poor condition of roads.
In April, a bus smashed into a tractor-trailer in a high-speed collision in Sindh, killing 42 people, while in March a horrific crash between two buses and a petrol tanker left 35 dead, with many burned alive when the fuel ignited.
The mountainous areas of Kashmir and the north, where drivers career around narrow hairpin bends over deep ravines with scant regard for safety, are particularly prone to accidents.