Wedding guests burn to death on bus in Pakistan

Pakistani police were on Monday investigating the deaths of at least 38 people killed on their way home from a wedding party in the eastern city of Lahore when firecrackers exploded on their crowded bus.

The incident occurred on Sunday evening, sending fire sweeping through the bus and killing 38 passengers, all of them wedding guests.

“We have identified as many as 22 bodies—11 women and 10 males and one child about nine years of age,” police investigator Rana Shabbir Ahmad said.

About five to seven bodies were so badly burnt that they could not be identified, doctors said, adding that the women’s bodies were identified by the necklaces and earrings they were wearing.

“There are three serious and critical burn patients admitted to Lahore Mayo hospital,” Dr Irfan Ali said. “They are more than 50% burnt. The government and the hospital administration are trying their level best to provide them with all kinds of medical treatment and facilities.”

A criminal case has been registered under the Explosives Act against the person who brought firecrackers on to the bus, but the accused was also killed in the blast, Ahmad said.

Police have also conducted raids on Lahore shops selling firecrackers, he added.

Firecrackers are quite popular during the wedding season, currently at its peak across Pakistan, despite the fact that several people have been killed in related accidents.

The youths accompanying the wedding party had left the firecrackers in the bus when the marriage-hall administration said it did not allow any kind of fireworks in its banquet hall, the police investigator said.

The burnt wreckage of the bus has been transferred to the police station and will remain there pending further inquiries, he said.

Local residents said the explosion occurred just after a young boy was seen throwing firecrackers out of a rear window of the bus.

Muhammad Wazir Khan, the 57-year-old father of the bridegroom who was in the bus, said there was a sudden explosion, following which he managed to scramble out of the vehicle with his clothes on fire.
He was not badly injured.

“We do not know who is dead and who has survived. The tragedy has shattered us. Several bodies are completely charred and cannot be identified,” he said.

“The entire family is in shock and there is much crying and wailing punctuated by long, deep silences,” Khan said, adding that the bride and groom were not hurt, as they were travelling in a separate vehicle.

Rescue workers and police faced delays in reaching the scene of the accident in the congested Ghazi Abad neighbourhood of Lahore due to traffic jams.—Sapa-AFP

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