Sixteen children and a teacher were killed when their school bus caught fire in central Pakistan on Saturday, police said.
Seven other children were injured in the blaze which destroyed the vehicle.
The van was carrying 24 children to a private school in Gujrat, about 112 kilometres north of the eastern city on Lahore, when it caught fire, local police chief Dar Ali Khattak told AFP. “The fire erupted in the vehicle when the children were only a few kilometres from their school,” he said.
The blaze was apparently caused by a spark when the driver of the dual-fuel van switched from gas to petrol, he said, adding that the fuel gas cylinder was intact. The children were aged between five and 15 years, he said, adding that a female teacher also died.
The driver, who fled and left the van in flames, has been arrested in the nearby city of Kharian, police official Abid Khan said.
Initial information said the driver had also kept petrol in a plastic bottle, as reserve fuel for emergency use, which may have contributed in intensifying the fire, he added.
The dead included three children of police constable Mohammad Riaz, and the dead teacher was their aunt, residents said, adding that thousands of people attended their funeral.