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Friday, September 14, 2012

Hundreds die in fire in garment factory at Karachi...


The dynamics of India and neighbouring Pakistan may differ in many ways – but there are some similarities – both are heavily populated and house lakhs of poor labourers in factories where safety standards are poorer. 

Only recently, the  horrific deaths of over 30 persons due to the fire at a fireworks factory in Sivakasi showed how palpable the working conditions are – but that was a fireworks manufacturing where the hazard was very high, one thought……  now there is news that Port city of Karachi and industrial town of Lahore are mourning and counting their deads.   It is the place of birth and burial of Quaid-e-Azam, (Muhammad Ali Jinnah), the founder of Pakistan-  Karachi is the largest city, main seaport and financial centre of Pakistan, as well as the capital of the province of Sindh. Karachi was the original capital of Pakistan until Islamabad was constructed.

More than 250 persons are feared dead in a worst fire accident in a garment factory in Karachi. The garments industry is critical to Pakistan's frail economy.    The garment factory "Ali Enterprises"  is reportedly  located in Plot 67, Hub Road, Baldia Town, Karachi, was a Manufacturing Unit exporting  garments to Europe and US, employing more than 1000 workers.  Fire is believed to have originated from a boiler explosion with the flames igniting chemicals that were stored inside the factory.  Sadly,  all the exit doors in the factory were locked and many of the windows of the factory were covered with iron bar, which made it difficult for workers to escape at the time of the fire and consequently many of the deaths were caused by suffocation.

It is one of the worst fires and Police are looking for the factory owners, who have not been seen since the blaze.  Police  have registered a murder case against the owners of the factory and several government officials for showing utter negligence to provide adequate security to the factory workers.  Even as rescue efforts were on,  relatives waiting outside the factory in the north-western Baldia town area of Karachi chanted slogans against the government. They said the tragedy could have been prevented if the authorities had enforced the relevant safeguards. Many other relatives lined up at hospitals to give blood samples to help identify almost 100 charred bodies.


The factory building, which was gutted in a massive blaze that claimed 289 lives, was cleared on 13th Sept. 2012 morning  after 41 hours of rescue work, officials said.  The blaze began on 11th Sept. 2012 and raged for more than 15 hours. Witnesses in Karachi described that  hundreds were trapped inside as the flames consumed the factory - the building had metal grilles on the windows and no fire exits. Workers had little time or opportunity to escape from the four-storey building's single exit - many could do so only by jumping from those windows they could get out of. Dozens suffered broken bones or worse.  Firefighters on crane lifts battled to rescue other trapped survivors suffering from burns and smoke inhalation, but the death toll rose steadily over the day.

On 13 September it was reported that the Sind provincial government would be offering financial compensation of PKR 500,000 (INR Rs.290000 approx) to the families of dead victims and PKR 50,000 (USD 550) to those injured in the disaster and the city power utility KESC announced they would waive all outstanding balances as well of the victims as a goodwill gesture.  As it happens, the factory had violated building norms and had no permission ofr basement and was without emergency exits. 

The fire accident dwarfed the earlier blaze at a Lahore shoe factory which killed 25 people.  The shoemaking factory is located at Band Road in Gulshan-i-Ravi in Lahore. It caught fire when sparks from a faulty electricity generator flew into chemicals. The generator was installed in the garage of the factory compound, which was also the only entry and exit point of the factory.

With regards- S. Sampathkumar.
PS :  source BBC – photos courtesy : denverpost.com

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