Oil tanker
A firefighter kicks close the door of a fuel truck which was set ablaze in Quetta, Balochistan, Pakistan, Dec. 9, 2011. Reuters

At least 120 people died and hundreds were injured near the Pakistani city of Ahmedpur East when an overturned oil tanker burst into flames Sunday morning. Unconfirmed reports said the tanker had been speeding when it overturned and soon crowds from nearby villages gathered to reportedly collect the spilled fuel from the leaking vehicle.

According to eyewitnesses, people smoking at the scene may have ignited the fire which engulfed at least 123 people who had gathered there to collect oil. Their bodies were charred beyond recognition, BBC reported citing local media reports.

"According to the initial reports, somebody tried to light a cigarette, and when the spilt fuel caught fire, leading to the tanker's explosion," Jam Sajjad Hussain, spokesman for the rescue workers service said, according to Reuters.

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The villagers rushed to the scene with containers to collect oil, according to Mohammad Akhtar, a police official with the city of Bahawalpur, who spoke to CNN. He said an emergency had been declared in the city.

Bilal Naseer, an investigative and crime correspondent for Pakistani news channel Samaa TV, tweeted a photograph of the site in which charred bodies could be seen.

Several local news channels started tweeting pictures from the site in which burned motorbikes, and the oil tanker could be seen.

Eyewitnesses said, according to media reports, about 30 motorcycles that had carried villagers to the accident site lay in charred ruins nearby. Eight other vehicles were destroyed.

According to another TV channel, Capital TV, the death toll has risen to 141. It cited Rana Sanaullah, a politician from the Pakistan Muslim League led by the Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The oil tanker over-speeding is one of the many examples in Pakistan where reckless driving is responsible for accidents. Additionally, the country's roads and poor vehicle maintenance are also other major factors, according to BBC.

The mishap could have been averted, according to the police, if the crowd had stayed away from the tanker instead of collecting spilled oil in pots. Women and children came in overwhelming numbers to collect oil and police warnings were not heeded which eventually led to the mishap.

"Suddenly, [a] huge fire erupted in the oil tanker which engulfed all people standing around the vehicle," reports said citing police sources.

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Meanwhile, Nawaz Sharif "expressed deep grief over the heavy loss of life," his office said. "The Prime Minister has directed provincial government to provide full medical assistance to the injured with burns...The Prime Minister has expressed sympathies with the bereaved families and prayed for the departed souls."

Punjab Chief Minister Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif said there would be an inquiry into the incident.

Armed Forces spokesman Major Gen. Asif Chafoor said on Twitter, "Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff (COAS) had directed the provision of full assistance to the civil administration in the relief effort."

Former captain of the Pakistani cricket team, Imran Khan, now the chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, tweeted, saying he had asked local leadership to assess what assistance could be provided to the injured and victims' families.

The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad meanwhile, also tweeted its condolences.