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Pakistan school van fire kills 16 children, teacher

A van carrying 23 children to a private school in Punjab province bursts into flames.

May 25, 2013|By Alex Rodriguez, Los Angeles Times
  • Area residents surround a school van that caught fire in Pakistan's Punjab province, killing 17 passengers.
Area residents surround a school van that caught fire in Pakistan's… (Khurram Aziz, EPA )

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Sixteen children and a teacher were killed Saturday when their school van burst into flames in eastern Pakistan, apparently due to a short circuit.

President Asif Ali Zardari expressed "deep shock" over the tragedy and ordered authorities to investigate the incident.

Pakistani media quoted police officials as saying the van was moving through eastern Punjab province when a short circuit ignited gasoline leaking from the fuel tank.

FOR THE RECORD: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the van was carrying 24 children. There were 23 children and a teacher aboard. Also, the caption with the photo said the accident happened in Afghanistan. It was in Pakistan.
 The driver of the van escaped the burning vehicle and fled without trying to save the young passengers, police said. He was later arrested in the nearby city of Kharian.

The van was transporting 23 children, ages 5 to 15, to a private school in the city of Gujrat, about 120 miles southeast of the capital, Islamabad. The seven surviving children were injured and taken to a hospital.

Television showed images of the charred red van and of relatives of the children sobbing as they leaned on wooden coffins holding the victims.

The van ran on both gasoline and compressed natural gas, a common combination in Pakistani vehicles. The driver can push a button to switch from gasoline to natural gas stored in a cylinder or vice versa. Initially, authorities believed it was the gas cylinder that exploded, but investigators later found the cylinder intact.

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