16 Pakistani schoolchildren killed in bus blast (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

A gas cylinder blast on a Pakistani school bus has killed 16 children and their teacher in the center of the country. The ensuing fire, which injured another seven children, completely destroyed the vehicle.

The wounded children are now being treated at a nearby hospital, and five of them are currently in critical condition.

The minivan was taking the children to a private school in Gurjat, around 112 kilometers north of the eastern city of Lahore. The children on board are believed to have been between the ages of 5 and 15. “The fire erupted in the vehicle when the children were only a few kilometers from their school,” local police chief Dar Ali Khattak told AFP.

A man displays a burnt book to the media near a burnt-out school bus on the outskirts of Gujrat, 100 miles (170 km) southeast of Islamabad, May 25, 2013 (Reuters / Stringer)

An initial assessment of the accident indicates a short circuit near a leaking gasoline tank was triggered when the dual-fuel vehicle switched from gas to petrol.

It is relatively commonplace in Pakistan for a vehicle to run on a mixture of petrol and natural gas. The gas is stored in pressurized containers, leaving it prone to explosions.

Men stand around a burnt-out school bus, after a gas cylinder on it exploded killing seventeen children, on the outskirts of Gujrat, 100 miles (170 km) southeast of Islamabad, May 25, 2013 (Reuters / Stringer)

Burnt schoolbooks are seen near a school bus, on which a gas cylinder exploded, killing seventeen children, on the outskirts of Gujrat, 100 miles (170 km) southeast of Islamabad, May 25, 2013 (Reuters / Stringer)