BAHAWALPUR: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced to hold an inquiry into the Bahawalpur oil tanker fire which resulted in the death of at least 140 people and left over 100 injured on Sunday.
He also declared that the government has made a policy decision to provide jobs to the injured as well as family members of the deceased.
Expressing condolences with the families of victims, the premier praised the chief minister and other senior officials who reached the site of the accident immediately and oversaw the rescue and relief effort.
He said a proper inquiry will be held to determine whether the oil tanker was fit to be on the road and whether all stakeholders did what they were supposed to do. Such incidents should be made an example of so they can be avoided in the future, he added.
“We will get to the bottom of this,” he said, adding that “this is our duty. We have not done a favour to anyone to be here”.
Saying that he does not want to talk about politics, the premier regretted the “politics played out on TV on Sunday”. “National tragedies don’t warrant [such] politics,” he said.
He then read a prayer for those who lost their lives in the tragedy.
Speaking before the prime minister, Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif said the local and provincial government sprung into action immediately after the incident.
He informed that three helicopters were in Bahawalpur immediately after the incident and transported the victims to Multan, “which has a world class burn unit”.
Revealing that the majority of victims were burnt over 80%, the chief minister said the Punjab Forensic Science Agency will be identifying the charred bodies after cross-matching them with the DNAs of the deceased’s family members.
After thanking the army and civilian government officials as well as the premier, Shehbaz wished that Eid be observed with modesty this year in light of the tragedy.
He also claimed that the tragedy was a result of poverty as locals, with no education and desperate for food, were collecting petrol to feed their stomachs. “This is the result of the endemic corruption prevalent in the country,” he said.
Earlier, the premier reached Bahawalpur accompanied by his wife Kulsoom Nawaz. He then visited Bahawal Victoria Hospital along with his brother, Shehbaz, where most of the injured are undergoing treatment.
The premier directed the authorities to ensure the best possible medical treatment for those injured in the incident. He also handed out cheques worth Rs1 million to those injured. The government has announced to give cheques worth Rs2 million to the families of the deceased as well.
Afterwards, the premier was given a briefing on the incident at the Circuit House where he was informed that 140 people died while 125 were injured in the incident, which occurred at 6:20AM on Sunday.
Bahawalpur Commissioner Saqib Zaffar, who gave the briefing, said 265 people were affected as the fire spread following an explosion.
The prime minister was also informed that locals had gathered to collect spilt oil after the oil tanker, carrying 25,000 litres of fuel, met an accident and crashed in Ahmedpur East town of Bahawalpur.
The Punjab chief minister had reached Bahawalpur earlier to condole with the bereaved families and oversee the treatment being given to the injured. He also offered Eid prayers in Bahawalpur.
The premier was in London on a private visit and was expected to return to Pakistan later in the week but cut short his trip after the tragic fire incident.
Talking to members of the press after offering Eid prayers in a mosque in central London, the premier said the National Action Plan had significantly reduced the incidents of terrorism in the country.
“[Peace and stability] conditions in Pakistan are steadily improving,” he said.
He added that he [recently] met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and both leaders mutually agreed on a few matters.
“We are working to make our relations with Afghanistan better,” the prime minister said.
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