Ahmadpur Sharqia Tragedy: Is losing more than 200 lives a ‘routine incident’?

Everyone was distraught when the news about disastrous incident surfaced on June 25, 2017 after an oil tanker blaze killed more than 200 people, leaving more than 60 injured. People of Ahmadpur Sharqia, Bahawalpur, witnessed an oil tank turned over and in the greed or may be excitement of getting something for free, gathered to collect oil in buckets, containers and whatever they had, following the announcement in speaker of a local mosque that morning. Sadly, sometime later, the tanker caught fire and exploded, which engulfed many vehicles in it. In spite of all efforts made by the police, the passion of getting the leaked oil could not decrease and that cost nothing but lives. The question arises: what factors led to this incident?

Critics of one category blamed Shell, a private oil company who was carrying oil in the tank, while the other criticized the government as well. Some blamed the poor driving skills of the driver hired by the company, and others kept criticizing the standard of the tanker. The Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA), on one side, held Shell Pakistan Ltd (SPL) responsible for the blast, while Shell tried to overcome the issue by ignoring many things.

After this heart-wrenching incident, the energy regulator ordered Shell Pakistan to pay a penalty of Rs 10 million. OGRA’s report also directed the oil company to pay Rs1 million as compensation to the families of the victims and Rs 0.5 million to the injured.

If we think slightly about the reason behind this incident, many come in a common man’s mind. Like the unprofessional behavior of the driver, poor maintenance of the vehicle, the lack of capacity of the vehicle for carrying oil, the police and highway authorities not taking up the incident seriously, or whatsoever. But what about the death tolls and those fighting with death at Victoria Hospital, Bahawalpur after this all? Another sad thing to be mentioned here is the lack of Burn Unit in the hospital, which speaks of the “worthy performance” of the government.

Unfortunately, Pakistan has an appalling record of fatal traffic accidents due to poor roads, badly maintained vehicles and reckless driving – and this was another major example of this. We can witness that in the statement of Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, the Petroleum Minister, who said that these incidents are usual.

Is it as usual as death? If a high authority takes this incident so lightly, I wonder what the thinking might be of those who actually are responsible.

Let’s see to which level this will take us. Either with the fine payment to the concerned body or ending up an inquiry committee until some new happens – whatsoever will be, one should keep in mind that life cannot be replaced with any compensation.

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