KARACHI: A speeding oil tanker overturned and burst into flames at Gulbai Bridge in Shershah at around 6:45am on Wednesday. The incident took a turn for the worse when the thousands of litres of diesel it was carrying, spilled onto the road and caught fire. At least five motorcycles and a mobile medical unit belonging to the National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases parked under the bridge were also gutted in the fire.
According to Traffic DIG Javed Meher, the accident occurred on the track leading towards Mauripur from Site Area when the oil tanker was taking a sharp turn and the lock mechanism holding the driver's compartment to the container broke. The tanker overturned and fell on the opposite track after it was separated from the driver's compartment.
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DIG Mahesar added that the driver of the oil tanker fled from the scene soon after the accident. In response to a question, the DIG said the ban on heavy traffic did not include oil tankers and water tankers.
As the diesel spread along the bridge and spilt onto the road below, it quickly caught fire, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.
Fire department officials said they were notified of the accident at 7:02am and fire tenders were dispatched to the site a minute later.
At least three fire tenders were dispatched to the site at first, but looking at the intensity of the blaze, the firefighters called for backup and soon, fire tenders from various parts of the city were sent to aid them.
Fire tenders of Pakistan Navy, Karachi Port Trust and other organisations also participated in the rescue operation. Water was supplied to the tenders through water tankers.
Law enforcement personnel, including Rangers and police officials, cordoned off the area while the firefighters attempted to douse the blaze.
The Gulbai bridge was closed for vehicular traffic for several hours, causing long queues to form on major thoroughfares connecting SITE Area, Baldia Town, Hub River Road, Nazimabad, Mauripur, Lyari Expressway, Jinnah Bridge and Kharadar.
As it was morning rush hour, scores of commuters traveling to work and schools were left stranded for hours while the rescue teams carried out the work. A large number of traffic police officials were deployed in the area to manage the traffic but it took several hours for the situation to be normalised.
When the firefighters had managed to contain the blaze, the authorities called for a crane to lift the oil tanker from the bridge. Some of the diesel remaining in the tanker was filled in boxes, after which a crane lifted the overturned tanker and set it upright. It was finally removed from the bridge at around 10:45am and later transported to the police station where it was impounded by the police.
According to Chief Fire Officer Tehseen Siddiqui, in addition to the oil tanker, five motorcycles and a medical unit were completely gutted in the fire which also caused some damage to two warehouses located nearby. He added that the diesel which spilt on the road had caused the fire to spread.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 11th, 2019.