Sixty two people were killed and 51 others injured in two separate fires that broke out in factories in Karachi and Lahore on Tuesday.
In the first incident in Lahore, as many as 22 labourers were burnt to death and 11 others injured in the fire at a shoe factory on Bund Road. The fire broke out when an electricity generator caught fire and flames immediately engulfed the chemical drums lying in the factory. Rescue 1122 workers recovered the bodies after breaking a back wall of the factory.
In the second incident in Karachi, 40 people, including four women, were burnt to death while 40 others were injured in a major fire that broke out in a garment factory in Baldia Town No 2 in the Site-B police limits. The chief fire officer in Karachi, Ehtesham, told The News at the site of the incident that he suspected more than 20 bodies were still inside the factory. Ehtesham said that the firemen also recovered about 40 bodies and 40 injured who were shifted to the Civil Hospital.
He said there were more than 250 employees present in the Ali Enterprise Garments Factory on the Hub River Road when the fire broke out at about 6:30pm. The immediate reaction of those in the building was to get to the rooftop to escape suffocation.
The firemen rescued the trapped workers with the help of KMC snorkels after hectic efforts. They said there was only one exit out of the building and no emergency exits that could have been used to save lives.
There was not even a fire extinguisher in the factory, the official said. The chief fire officer reiterated his fear about the likely presence of another 40 bodies inside the factory.
Ethesham further told The News that the firemen who participated in the operation cut the grills of the windows to save the workers.
He said that the walls inside the building were also demolished to accelerate the rescue operation. While the firemen were trying to douse the flames, a large boiler in the factory exploded, throwing flames in all directions.
The blaze thus turned into an inferno, taking hold of all floors and basement of the building. The flames were so high that they could be seen from far away. As more fire tenders rushed to the spot, all attention was diverted towards the workers of the factory, who were trapped in the burning structure.
The unfortunate workers were seen on the top of the building crying for help. Many others were stuck on the first two floors. Many workers, including women, who had succeeded in reaching the top of the building, jumped off in panic to save their lives.
As a result, several of them fractured their legs and some of them also received injuries on their back. Edhi and Chippa ambulances immediately took the injured, many of whom were in critical condition, to the Civil Hospital.
After the fire officials designated the inferno to be of category three, the deadliest, 43 fire engines of the KMC, two from the KPT and three snorkels reached the spot.
They were later joined by fire engines of the Pakistan Air Force, Pakistan Navy, Defence Housing Authority and Clifton Cantonment Boards.
Sources said that the cause of the fire was a short circuit but the exploding boiler spelt doom for the workers and the building. The KESC authorities also rushed to the spot and disconnected the power. Sui Gas officials, meanwhile, disconnected the gas connections.
The police and law enforcement agencies (LEA) cordoned off the area. After realising the gravity of the situation.
Some of the deceased were identified as Farhan, Khalil Ahmed, Lateef, Athar Ali, Zaitoon, Ahmed Ali, Jameel, Imran Hassan and Imran Akbar while the others remained unidentified.
Ahmed Ali was a computer operator in the factory and he lived in Baldia Town No 1. The News witnessed shocked family members of the employees, weeping hysterically and praying for the safety of their loved ones at the scene.
They rushed to the entrance whenever a body was taken out of the building, shivering with fear lest the body happened to be that of their relative. Later, the commissioner Karachi ordered registration of an FIR against the owners of the factory.
Meanwhile, the Sindh government announced compensation of Rs500,000 each to the heirs of the deceased workers. The Chief Minister of Sindh, Syed Qaim Ali Shah, has appointed a three-member committee to inquire into the incident and submit a report within a week. .
Meanwhile in Lahore, Rescue 1122 sources said Rajab, the owner of the factory that caught fire belonged to Multan, was also burnt to death. It was reported that Rajab and his brother established the shoe factory in Shafiqabad. Rajab dealt in the factory’s affairs while his brother Tahir was running a shop in the Timber Market.
The bodies and injured persons were taken to Mayo and Mian Munshi hospitals, where medics faced difficulty in identifying the victims as they were badly charred. Rescue 1122 workers extinguished the fire after four hours of hectic efforts. They said 20 bodies were shifted to Mayo Hospital, while five were taken to Mina Munshi Hospital. The death toll is expected to rise as the condition of two injured persons, out of eight persons, was stated to be critical. Mayo Hospital Medical Superintendent Dr Zahid Pervaiz confirmed the death toll, saying that emergency had been declared in the hospital.
On arrival, fire fighters began rescuing people trapped in dense smoke in the building. Almost eight were rescued and taken to a hospital for smoke inhalation and burns.
Media reports following the disaster have highlighted numerous breaches of safety design in the building. Most of the persons first fainted due to thick black smoke bellowing from the chemical section, a rescuer said. Similarly, the dense smoke prevented many others from finding the fire escapes or way out of the building.
Police said the building did not meet safety standards as it was neither equipped with fire extinguishers nor had an exit point to escape in an emergency. A senior police officer said the tragedy was a direct result of seriously inadequate fire safety measures while a rescuer said the labourers were faced with an impossible choice; to be burnt to death or risk their lives and jump onto the concrete below, which many did.
Various goods, a car and a motorcycle were also damaged in the blaze. DIG Investigation Ch Shafiq, DIG Operations Rai Tahir, Lahore commissioner and DCO visited the spot. Among the dead were Khurram, 20, Akram, 22, Iqbal, 27, Naveed, 13, Salman, 18, Shafiq, 35, Imran, 20, Rajab, 34, Nadeem, 20, Adnan, 17, Danish, 16, Ali, 13, Ashraf, 30, Sohail, 25, Babar Umar, 22, Abid, 18, Raees, Danish Nawaz and Javed Munir.
Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif expressed a deep sense of grief over the loss of precious human lives in the shoe factory fire. The chief minister announced financial assistance of Rs500,000 each for the families of the deceased and Rs75,000 each for the injured as well as free medical treatment. The chief minister also constituted a special team, headed by the CMIT chairman, to hold an inquiry into the incident. DCO Noorul Amin Mengal said the CM had also sought a report of the incident within 24 hours..
Source: The News.pk