MULTAN, Pakistan – A head-on collision between a passenger bus and a truck on a highway in southern Pakistan killed 58 people on Tuesday, police said. The collision ignited a fuel fire and a rescuer later described how he carried out a survivor, a four-year-old girl, from the burning bus.
The bus, with about 70 people, had left Swat Valley and was en route to the southern port city of Karachi when it collided head-on with the truck near Khairpur district in Sindh province, said police official Ghulam Jhokhio.
He said the bus quickly caught fire after its fuel tank exploded.
The fatalities included 21 women and 19 children, all below the age of 14, said local hospital official Jafar Soomro and warned the death toll was likely to rise. Fifteen people were injured and in hospital, several of them in critical condition, he said.
Initially, Jhokhio said the accident might have happened because of heavy fog.
But later, deputy chief of highway police, A.D. Khawaja, said the bus was speeding on a part of the highway under construction and that the driver’s carelessness caused the accident.
“The speeding bus was overcrowded and the driver was careless,” Khawaja said, adding that earlier in the day, traffic police had stopped the bus and fined it for carrying too many passengers.
Private Pakistani TV channels broadcast live footage from the scene, showing rescue workers carrying the victims and policemen clearing the road.
Rescue officer Mohammad Ata described the inferno to Dunya TV as he held a little girl in his arms, and recounted how he pulled her out of the burning bus.
“She was sitting all calm in a seat when I got into the bus on fire,” Ata said.
Deadly accidents are common on roads across Pakistan due to bad road infrastructure and rampant disregard of traffic laws. Over 9,000 road accidents are reported to the police every year, killing on average around 5,000 people, according to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics.
A Sindh provincial minister, Siraj Durrrani, decried the tragedy and said the government badly needs to improve the infrastructure to avoid such horrific accidents.