Top Tip – this is something not to do

When a tanker truck overturned on a road in eastern Pakistan on Sunday (June 25), hundreds of people rushed towards the vehicle to collect the leaking fuel.

Using buckets, bottles and cans, they scooped up some of the 5,500 gallons of fuel gushing onto the road. For about an hour, men, women and children from nearby villages, as well as some passers-by who pulled over in their cars and motorbikes, collected the “windfall”, despite attempts by police to warn them away from the scene.

Then, suddenly, the truck caught fire and exploded, killing at least 150 people and seriously injuring at least 100 others.

I recall at least one incident of this happening in Nigeria. What’s gasoline these days, $2 a gallon? (Untaxed, of course, not at European rates). $10,000 worth of gas, 150 deaths, these people were poor, no? Risking for that little each?

23 comments on “Top Tip – this is something not to do

  1. In my experience people in these sort of places generally have a very poor sense of self preservation. I don’t think it’s about them weighing the risks of being blown up against the cash they could get from the petrol; they just aren’t aware of the danger.

  2. If we assume that the average Pakistani is 30 times poorer than the average Brit, then to us it’s as if the free petrol was worth $60/gal. Most people would steer clear, but there’d still be plenty of hot-heads willing to risk their lives for a £200 jerrycan.

  3. “In my experience people in these sort of places generally have a very poor sense of self preservation.”

    My experience was seeing exactly the same sort of behaviour on the London Stock Exchange. It’s not just the poor.

  4. “for about an hour”: an hour? An HOUR? In other words, the police were completely hopeless, and totally failed to block off the scene.

  5. > the police were completely hopeless

    I imagine it’s pretty tough to separate a hungry mob from a minefield full of £200 jerrycans, ripe for picking.

  6. It may be some time since I’ve told a favourite Texan tale from an old boss of mine. A train of propane tankers overturns. The fire brigade turns up and plays its hoses on them, but still there’s a mighty explosion, many dead. Perhaps it would have been better if so many firemen hadn’t been smoking?

  7. “I imagine it’s pretty tough to separate a hungry mob from a minefield full of £200 jerrycans, ripe for picking.”

    Well, it’s easier being a policeman in a third-world country. You can wave real guns around at people, and even shoot at them, or at least handcuff people who won’t do what they’re told, or send them off to the station for a beating.

  8. It appears the police were overwhelmed by the mob arriving in numbers, they had evidently been tipped of about the “free” gasoline by the local mosques who used their call to prayer Tannoys to tell them where to go, religion of………………….

  9. I recall a dhobi-wallah in Pakistan deciding on his own initiative to marinate workers overalls in petrol after being instructed that they must be “very-very clean” . Take yank Wasticator washing machine with 70 deg water add ca. 2L of petrol – steep for 10 minutes and switch on. He looked quite different without his beard and eyebrows.

    Meanwhile in Nigeria – dissatisfied with the capacity of hand-me-down fuel trucks the locals regularly improvise extensions with mixed results

  10. I can imagine a couple of dozen police officers and several hundred people. While one officer is stopping the person immediately in front of them 30 more pass by to either side.

    There’s an old German cartoon from before Hitler came to power.
    It shows a farmer with a field full of crops that were ripe enough to be harvested, there’s hundreds of people stripping the field bare and taking the stuff home – carrying, wheelbarrows etc – and a lone policeman who cannot stop them.
    Police have to be on site in sufficient numbers or sufficiently brutal to prevent people doing what they want to do.
    In this instance and it being Pakistan, would not surprise me if half the police were ringing family members to come get the free fuel while the other half topped up their own vehicles.

  11. “Police have to be on site in sufficient numbers or sufficiently brutal to prevent people doing what they want to do.”

    Police being brutal is generally not a problem in the third world.

    Also, it went on for an HOUR.

    “In this instance and it being Pakistan, would not surprise me if half the police were ringing family members to come get the free fuel while the other half topped up their own vehicles.”

    This is a more likely explanation.

  12. 1) If 99 other people are collecting free fuel, then it’s easier to believe it’s safe.

    2) I’ve seen people in the UK risk their lives to save a few seconds by overtaking the car or lorry infront.

    Tim’s calculation is wrong. If this has happened 1000 times before without mishap, then they’re risking 150 lives for $10m.

    > Dongguan John
    > In my experience people in these sort of places
    > generally have a very poor sense of self
    > preservation.

    What’s your experience of these sorts of places, because you sound like a patronising arse with the benefit of hindsight?

  13. He’s a buyer/operations manager in the shoe business out in the Far East. Quite possibly more experience of poor countries than the entirety of DFiD

  14. Everyone has a poor sense of self preservation. Driving in the 70s without a seatbelt; speeding; living in a tower block with 1000 missing fire doors; motorbikes; the slow reaction of supporters at Bradford stadium fire; etc.

    And vice-versa – exaggerated fear of violent crime, fear of flying shortly after high profile plane crash, etc.

  15. Dave C

    Your choice of list (items representing “a poor sense of self preservation”!) is revealing…

  16. It took four minutes from the first flames being spotted to the entire stand being engulfed. The exits at the back of the stand were locked, the wall on to the pitch was deeper on the terraces. If you knew anything about the fire or the layout of Valley Parade at the time, you wouldn’t have used the fire as a piss poor example…

  17. Between the smoke and the flames becoming visible, people nearby didn’t realise how fast it would spread. There’s video of police officers standing in front of the flames.

    That’s no different to John’s statement “people in these sort of places generally have a very poor sense of self preservation” for the 150 who does this week.

    I was just saying that it’s easy to criticise with hindsight.

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