At least 57 dead after bus crashes into oil tanker in Pakistan

KARACHI (AFP) - At least 57 people, including women and children, have been killed after their bus crashed into an oil tanker, igniting a fierce blaze in southern Pakistan early on Sunday, officials said.

"We have received more than 57 dead 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 told AFP.

The oil tanker was apparently speeding in the wrong direction down a road when it crashed into a passenger bus, police said. "The bus carrying some 50 passengers hit the oil tanker, which according to initial reports was coming in a wrong direction," senior police official Rao Muhammad Anwaar told AFP. "The bus caught fire after the accident."

The bus was en route to the town of Shikarpur from the southern port city of Karachi when the collision occurred along a stretch of dilapidated road. Some of the victims were charred beyond recognition, Mr Anwaar added.

A few passengers escaped unhurt after they jumped out of the bus windows, another police official Muhammad Jan said.

"We are trying to ascertain if the driver of the oil tanker was solely at fault or whether the bus driver also showed negligence," Mr Anwaar said.

Pakistan has an appalling record of fatal traffic accidents due to poor roads, badly-maintained vehicles and reckless driving.

Television channels showed live footage from the fiery crash site where rescue workers were busily evacuating dead bodies and injured.

It was the second major fatal crash in Sindh province in less than three months.

At least 57 people, including 18 children, were killed in November last year when a bus collided with a goods truck loaded with coal near Khairpur town, 450km north of Karachi, the capital of southern Sindh province.

The recovery equipment available to Pakistani emergency services is often basic, and when crashes happen away from major towns, rescue efforts can take some time, often reducing injured passengers' chances of survival.

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, while the condition of roads in the south can also be dangerous.