The tanker crashed into the vehicles late in the evening at a police outpost in the southwest of the country near Nosrabad, on the road from Bam to Zahedan, the busy highway linking Iran and Pakistan.

Policemen at the post said the tanker had been travelling too fast and the driver lost control, turning the vehicle over. It was loaded with 18,000 litres of petrol, which leaked following the crash, causing the fire to spread across a wide area.

Zahedan governor Heidar Ali Nouraei announced the death toll on state television. ‘The disaster is so grave we cannot identify faces and cannot differentiate between corpses,’ he said. He also added that many of the deaths had been caused by a lack of lack of fire-fighting equipment.