Pakistan investigating Shell contractor's tanker blast that killed 209

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 04, 2017 9:15 AM

By Saad Sayeed

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan's oil and gas regulator expects the first report this week in an investigation into a tanker explosion involving a Shell Pakistan contractor that killed 209 people, a spokesman for the regulatory authority said on Tuesday.

The June 25 explosion took place after the oil tanker went off road to avoid a collision on a road outside the eastern city of Bahawalpur.

A large crowd of people gathered around the truck and many began collecting fuel in containers when the tanker exploded in a huge fireball.

"We are actively pursuing the issue and expect our third party investigators to issue a report by Thursday and we will then begin proceedings according to our rules and regulations," a spokesman for the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA), Imran Ghaznavi, told Reuters.

Ghaznavi said the tanker was operated by a contractor hired by Shell Pakistan to transport gasoline from the southern port city of Karachi to the city of Lahore, the capital of Punjab province.

Shell Pakistan Ltd, a subsidiary of energy giant Royal Dutch Shell, issued a statement shortly after the accident saying it would cooperate fully with all investigations.

"Road safety is a priority at Shell and we have already started our own investigation into the cause of the incident,” the company's managing director, Jawwad Cheema, said in the statement.

At the time of the explosion, a spokesman for the Punjab provincial government said the truck went off the road after it blew a tyre and the driver lost control. The driver survived the accident and the subsequent explosion.

Fuel is a precious commodity for villagers in Pakistan, where more than 60 percent of the population survives on $3 a day, according to a World Bank survey.

Shell Pakistan said in a report it sent to the oil and gas regulator, and seen by Reuters, that "to avoid collision from behind, the driver moved the tank truck to left hand side of the road on the soft shoulder which resulted in roll over of the tank truck".

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced two million rupees ($20,000) compensation for the families of the victims on June 26.

As of Tuesday, the death toll from the explosion was 209 with 60 people being treated in hospitals, a spokesman for Bahawalpur's Victoria Hospital, Amir Mehmood, told Reuters.

(Additional reporting by Mubasher Bukhari; Editing by Robert Birsel)