|More than 110 perish in Khi factory fire|
12 September 2012
KARACHI: More than 110 people have perished in the devastating fire that gutted a garment factory in Baldia Town, raising fresh concerns about workplace safety, officials said Wednesday.
At least 110 people died at a garment factory in Karachi, in the worst inferno in decades to hit the biggest city, just hours after 25 died at a shoe factory in Lahore.
Dozens of others were hurt as they jumped out of windows in the four-storey building to escape the blaze that began Tuesday evening in a bid to save their lives.
It was not immediately clear what caused the fire.
Shouting and sobbing relatives of trapped workers, desperate to get inside the factory, scuffled with police overnight as rescuers battled to work through the night.
"We have recovered 110 bodies so far and are still searching for more victims," Karachi fire chief Ehtesham Salim told.
"We found dozens of people dead in a large room of the factory's basement. It was totally burnt and parts of it were smouldering, which we put out before taking the bodies to hospitals."
Abdus Salam, a doctor at Karachi's Civil Hospital, said 10 women garment makers were among the dead.
"The bodies are badly charred," Salam told. At least 65 other workers suffered broken bones after jumping out of windows to escape the flames, he said.
Salim said firemen were searching every corner of the building despite limited resources.
He called the factory dangerous, saying it had been flimsily built, lacked emergency exits and had developed cracks in the walls, which was also putting rescue workers at risk.
"It was packed like a box with little room left for ventilation. There were no emergency exits," Salim said.
"We found people who died of suffocation caused by the highly toxic smoke. They died first and then their bodies were burned by the raging fire," he said.
Salim said dozens of fire engines were scrambled to the scene of the tragedy.
"Most of the fire has been extinguished, but there it is smouldering in some parts due to the plastics and chemicals," he said.
Salim said the disaster was Karachi's "biggest fire in terms of deaths in decades".
In January 2009, 40 people were killed, more than half of them children, when a fire engulfed dozens of wooden homes in Karachi's impoverished Baldia neighbourhood.
Firefighters on crane lifts reached through windows of the gutted building to rescue some trapped survivors, who were taken to hospitals suffering from burns and smoke inhalation.
Mohammad Saleem, 32, who broke a leg after jumping out of the second floor, said he and his colleagues were hard at work late Tuesday.
"It was terrible, suddenly the entire floor filled with fire and smoke and the heat was so intense that we rushed towards the windows, broke its steel grille and glass and jumped out," Saleem told.
"I fell on the ground and it was extremely painful, I saw many people jumping out of windows and crying in pain for help," he said.
Around 150 employees were working at the time in one of the factory's three round-the-clock shifts, Saleem said.
Officials said the cause of the fire was unknown but Rauf Siddiqi, the industry minister for southern province Sindh said the owner was under investigation for negligence.
"We have ordered an inquiry into how the fire erupted and why proper emergency exits were not provided at the factory so that the workers could escape," Siddiqi said.
Hospital sources told that more than 71 bodies were brought to the Civil Hospital while more than 31 were brought to the Jinnah Hospital. The MLO of Civil Hospital told that more than 37 victims were identified and handed over to the relatives of the victims, sources told.
The Provincial Minister for Industries and Commerce, Abdul Rauf Siddiqui, has tasked the concerned authorities to come up with a report on the incident within 24 hours while Home Minister Rehman Malik has also taken notice of the incident.
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