239 die as blaze engulfs two factories in Pakistan (Fourth Lead)

September 12th, 2012 - 6:05 pm ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, Sep 12 (IANS) At least 239 people met a macabre death when fire raced through two factories, one in Karachi and the other in Lahore. The bigger of the two tragedies took place in the port city where over 214 people died in one of the worst infernos that the country has seen in recent times.

On Tuesday afternoon, a fire enveloped a shoe factory in the eastern city of Lahore, killing 25. A few hours later Tuesday evening, a massive blaze broke out in a garments factory in Karachi, leaving 214 people dead overnight.

In Karachi, there were so many bodies sent to hospitals that there was not enough space for them at the mortuaries.

The toll has reached 214, said hospital sources in Karachi.

Many of the bodies were burnt beyond recognition, they said, adding that 26 out of the 60 bodies identified have been handed over to their family members, reported Xinhua.

“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,” Geo News quoted Karachi fire chief Ehtesham Salim as saying.

Desperate relatives wailed as rescuers scrambled to help the trapped workers.

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

Karachi Commissioner Roshan Ali Sheikh said that the mass casualties of the fire happened due to the closure of the emergency exits by the factory’s owner.

Hospital sources said that many of the victims died because of suffocation.

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.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik was quoted by the media as saying Federal Investigation Agency is probing the fires in Karachi and Lahore that broke out on same day to find out any link with terrorism.

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