BAHAWALPUR/MULTAN: As the death toll in Sunday’s oil tanker fire near Ahmedpur Sharqia rose to 188 on Friday, the Punjab government’s inquiry committee began a probe into the incident.

Dawn learnt the four-member committee held a meeting at the office of the in Bahawalpur Commissioner Saqib Zafar where they were briefed about the incident. Deputy Commissioner Rana Saleem Afzal and Quaid-i-Azam Medical College (QAMC) Principal Prof Dr Ijlal Haider Rizvi were also present.

Chief Minister`s Inspection Team Chairman Irfan Ali is head of the committee while former inspector general of police Tariq Saleem Dogar, the Punjab Transport Department secretary and the Punjab Emergency Service Rescue 1122 director general are its members.

Dr Rizvi told Dawn he apprised the committee members about the treatment of the burnt people at the Bahawal Victoria Hospital (BVH) where veteran surgeons responded to his call and conducted operations whereas medics and paramedics remained on emergency duties on Sunday. After the meeting, the members visited BVH where they inquired after the burnt people in wards.

Later, the members inspected the accident scene at Basti Azam Joya on National Highway.

District Emergency Officer Dr Asif Rahim Channar told Dawn the members met the families whose dear and near ones had either died or were injured in the fire.They also collected evidence from the scene.

Local MNA Makhdoom Syed Ali Gilani and MPA Qazi Adnan Farid also met the team and apprised them of the circumstances leading to the oil tanker’s explosion and ensuing relief and rescue work. The team also inquired after the burnt people being treated at the Ahmedpur Sharqia Tehsil Headquarters Hospital.

Dr Asif Rahim Channar said the team members also held a meeting with the heads of some government departments to collect information.

According to the QAMC principal, death toll rose to 188 as several people being treated at different hospitals died on Friday. Since the tragedy on June 25, 10 people have expired in the the Combined Military Hospital and nine in the BVH, while another five succumbed to their burns in the Jinnah Hospital, Lahore.

He said that of the 28 injured people admitted to the BVH, one was to be shifted to Multan owing to his serious condition while another, who had recovered, was likely to be discharged.

Dr Moazzam Tarar, a Multan-based professor, was quoted as saying that he had got the donation of skin grafting for the critically injured patients of Bahawalpur and their process of skin grafting might begin shortly.

According to Dr Tarar, the donation was given by the United States.

By our going into the press on Friday at 10pm, the death toll of the Ahmadpur East oil tanker blaze, admitted to the Nishtar Hospital, rose to 40. of them, six died on Friday.

According to official data, 66 patients were received at the burns unit of the Nishtar Hospital on June 25. One patient was discharged on Thursday.

Some witnesses stated that pouring water by the fire brigade on the fire further increased the flames which resulted into more deaths.

They said that only one vehicle of fire brigade was available to extinguish such huge fire but firefighters were not trained to deal with fire from petrol fumes.

They said the civil administration not only arrived at the fire scene late but they also lacked the fire fighting equipments while the staff of Civil Defense was also absent from the scene.

Those rescued from the flames were dragged to vehicles carelessly, which added fractures to their bodies.

Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2017