Thursday October 21, 2021

17 perish in horrific factory fire in Korangi

August 28, 2021

KARACHI: At least 17 workers lost their lives after a deadly fire erupted in a factory in Pakistan’s commercial capital Karachi on Friday. Officials said the factory was like a dungeon with no proper exits while iron grills covered the windows; the incident was like what happened about nine years ago on September 11, 2012 at a factory in Karachi’s Baldia Town that claimed over 250 lives.

“Majority of the casualties occurred as the gates were locked and windows were covered with iron grills,” SSP Korangi Shahjahan Khan told The News. He said most of the labourers died due to suffocation as they ran towards the roof through the stairs but were unable to reach the roof as the gate was locked and the entire factory was filled with thick smoke.

Police said that around 26 labourers were present at the ground-plus-two-storeyed building located on a 400 square yards residential plot. “The workers on the ground floor were able to save themselves by running outside but the workers on the first and second floors were trapped,” he explained, adding: “The workers could have survived if there were proper exits, ventilation, firefighting system as well as unlocked roof. But unfortunately, no one was rescued alive.”

Police have also prepared the initial report of the factory fire. The report stated that the owner of the factory was yet to be approached as he did not contact the police and his cell phone was also switched off, while the police have questioned factory manager, Imran Zaidi, and recorded his statement. “For the last around one and a half years, travelling luggage bags were being manufactured in the factory. Earlier, soap was manufactured in the factory,” the manager told the police. The supervisor and other officials of the management went underground following the fire; however, the police promised to register a case under the criminal act as the factory was covered from all sides and all the entry and exit points were locked to avoid theft by the workers.

The fire brigade department said that the fire broke out at around 10am, adding that fire tenders across the city were immediately dispatched to the fire site. The fire department said that a total of 13 fire tenders with snorkel, water bowsers and water tankers participated in extinguishing the fire.

The firefighters, however, with the help of heavy machinery broke the wall of the factory to continue their search and rescue operation, adding that the presence of chemicals, thinner, Samad Bond and kerosene oil caused the massive fire engulfing the factory. The fire brigade officials declared the blaze a third-degree fire.

One of the workers at the factory said that no food was being prepared at the factory and said chemical drums in the factory may have caused the fire. Emergency was declared at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, where a large number of family members, relatives and friends of the factory workers arrived after the news was aired on the media.

The deceased labourers included 36-year-old Farman, son of Ahsan, his two brothers, Irfan and Farhan, 18-year-old Hassan, son of Saleem, his brother Farhan, 25, Usman, 22, son of Naimat Khan, Ali, 25, son of Munir, Zahid Khan, 22, son of Allah Dino, Usman, 22, son of Hussain, Rashid Hussain, 41, son of Nisar Hussain, Syed Jawad Ali Zaidi, 22, son of Muhammad Hussain, Shoaib, 21, son of Khalil, Sabir, 38, son of Islamuddin, Kashif, 22, son of Zulfiqar, Adnan, 23, son of Yaqoob and Sarfaraz, 29, son of Omar.

Besides, firefighters, police, Rangers, secretary Labour Sindh, DC Korangi and commissioner Karachi also reached the incident site. The assistant commissioner, Korangi sealed the factory.A labour union also staged a protest outside the burning factory and demanded the government to take stern action against the factory management and also compensate the victims.

Taking notice of the incident, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah expressed deep sorrow over the loss of lives, and sought a report from the commissioner, Karachi, and the Labour Department. He questioned how the incident took place and whether any security measures were in place. “How did so many casualties occur?” Shah further inquired. The chief minister also directed the concerned authorities to provide full support to the families of the deceased workers. Governor Sindh Imran Ismail also lamented the deaths of the labourers killed in the factory fire.

The family members and relatives of the victims criticised the government as well as the factory management. “What is the difference between Baldia and Korangi factory fires? Obviously, no difference. The reason was only theft. The management used to cover the windows and close the gates to avoid theft incidents by the workers of the factory,” they said, asking: “Where is the Ministry of Industries as this is the responsibility of the ministry to ensure the implementation on the SOPs issued by the government.”