135 die as flames engulf two factories in Pakistan (Third Lead)

September 12th, 2012 - 4:30 pm ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, Sep 12 (IANS) At least 135 people met a horrific death when flames engulfed two factories, one in Karachi and the other in Lahore. The bigger of the two tragedies took place in the port city where 110 people died in one of the worst infernos that Pakistan has seen in recent times.

On Tuesday afternoon, a blaze enveloped a shoe factory in the eastern city of Lahore, killing 25. A few hours later Tuesday evening, fire broke out in a garments factory in Karachi, leaving 110 people dead overnight.

In Karachi, desperate relatives wailed as rescuers scrambled to help the trapped workers.

“We have recovered 110 bodies so far and are still searching for more victims,” Geo News quoted Karachi fire chief Ehtesham Salim as saying.

“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.”

Mohammad Saleem, 32, who broke his leg after jumping out of the second floor, recounted the horror.

“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.

“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.

The toll steadily climbed through the night as body after body was brought out of the burnt building.

Women and children are also among the dead and injured.

Abdus Salam, a doctor at Karachi’s Civil Hospital, said at least 65 workers suffered broken bones after jumping out of windows to escape the flames.

He described the factory as dangerous since it was flimsily built, didn’t have emergency exits and had developed cracks in the walls.

“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 added.

All the firefighting force in Karachi had been marshalled to fight the blaze. At least 40 fire tenders doused it.

Snorkels were also used to bring the people down from the roof of the factory, which turned into a ball of fire.

Sources said around 2,000 people were employed at the 2,000 square-yard garment factory.

In the second major fire incident, at least 25 people died after a fire broke out in shoe sole making factory in Lahore.

The owner of the factory and his son were among the dead.

Forty-five people were at work when the fire engulfed the factory located in a narrow-street.

The inaccessible location of the factory made it difficult for the firefighters to douse the flames and rescue those trapped inside.

Rescuers had to punch holes through the walls and shatter the windows to enter the building to get the injured out.

An official said an electric generator explosion set the chemicals and plastic granules on fire.

Several cottage industries that operate out of residential houses are located in the Band Road area of Lahore.

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