December 12, 2005

Toll in Pakistan wedding tragedy rises to 40

LAHORE, Pakistan (Reuters) - At least 40 people have been
confirmed killed by a fire aboard a bus in Pakistan sparked
when a firecracker let off to celebrate a wedding set the
vehicle's fuel tank alight, police said on Monday.

The toll from Sunday's tragedy in the eastern city of
Lahore could be higher as several bodies were completely burned
and shocked relatives had not yet given a full count of those
aboard the bus, the police said.

They said the bus may have been carrying as many as 70
passengers, including women and children. Police said five
people were rescued from the blaze and others may have escaped

Friends of the groom were celebrating the marriage by
letting off firecrackers in front of his house when one of the
firecrackers fell under the bus carrying relatives and friends
of the couple, setting alight its fuel tank.

The bride and the groom were unharmed as they were in
another vehicle.

Police gave a death toll of 35 late on Sunday, but Senior
Superintendent Aamir Zulfikar said five more bodies had since
been pulled from the debris.

Some local newspapers put the death toll at 45 to 50.

People often set off firecrackers and sometimes fire guns
into the air to celebrate marriages in Pakistan, despite
efforts by authorities to discourage such practices.

Zulfikar said Lahore police had stepped up efforts to
enforce an existing ban on the making and selling of fireworks.