Police register case as Gadani ship-breaking yard death toll rises to 20

More than 50 workers injured, several feared trapped inside the burning ship


KARACHI: The death toll from the blast at Gadani ship-breaking yard mounted to 20, as more bodies were recovered from the site on Wednesday, officials said. Fire engulfs the vessel as even after 48 hours rescue workers have been unable to put out the fire.

More than 50 laborers were also injured after a huge blast ripped through an oil tanker at the ship-breaking yard, according to local officials. Many were reported trapped inside the vessel.

About 70 percent of the ship has been destroyed in the fire. Fuel inside the ship continues to burn, hampering rescue work. Eye witnesses claim that they can hear explosions in the ship as fuel burns.

The MTSS ship with a Nairobi flag had reached Gadani carrying 19 Indian crew members on October 22. The same day the crew left the ship, sources said.

The ship was bought by owner of Ghafoor and Company Abdul Ghafoor, who has been missing since the incident. Police has arrested the contractor who was dealing with the workers.

Those responsible for lack of safety in the area may be tried under the Anti-Terrorism law.

PSBA Chairman taken into police custody

Deputy Commissioner Lasbela today gave orders for arrest of Pakistan Ship-Breakers Association (PSBA) Chairman Dewan Rizwan Farooqui.

According to SHO Gadani, the PSBA chairman was taken into custody following the orders from DC Lasbela.

Strict action to be taken against those found negligent: Zehri

Chief Minister Balochistan Sanaullah Zehri said that strict action would be taken against those found negligent in the inquiry

He said that the inquiry would be completed within a week.

Case filed

A case on behalf of the government has been filed at the Gadani police station. According to police four suspects have been named in the case.

The suspects include Chaudhry Ghafoor, Muhammad Hafeez, Contractor Jalal and Farooq Bangali.

One of the suspects, Hafeez has been arrested by police.

No safety for workers

The leader of a ship-breaking workers union said fire had engulfed the vessel moored in Gadani, 45 km (28 miles) northwest of the port city of Karachi.

"Things are really bad here," union president Basheer Mehmoodani told Reuters by telephone. "There’s an unclear number of workers said to be trapped in the burning ship."

Nasir Mansoor, a representative of the National Trade Union Federation of Pakistan, said the explosion sent pieces of metal flying up to 2 km (one mile) away.

The blast occurred in the fuel tank of the ship, which was still on fire, he said.

Firefighters from Karachi and from the air force and navy were attempting to put out the blaze, he said.

Mansoor said the firefighters would have to wait for the fire to die out "as they lack the foam required to douse it."

Labourers in Gadani often work in poor conditions without basic protective gear.

The Gadani ship-breaking industry has fallen on hard times recently and employs about 9,000 workers, fewer than in its boom years at the end of the last decade.

Labourers look on as the fire fighters attempt to put out the fire. PHOTO: AFP
Labourers look on as fire fighters attempt to put out the fire. PHOTO: AFP

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expressed his condolences with the families of those who lost their lives in the explosion at the Gadani ship-breaking yard and has ordered an inquiry into the accident.

The prime minister has also ordered to expedite the rescue operation to recover those stuck at the site of the accident.

According to the Prime Minister House spokesman the prime minister has ordered the relevant officials to use all resources available to control the fire and to provide medical attention to all those injured in the incident.

A meeting held by Balochistan Chief Minister was told that the owners of the ship had not taken a No Objection Certificate before bring the ship to the scrapyard. The Prime Minister has formed a four-member committee headed by Minister for Defence Production to investigate the incident.