Friday, August 27, 2021
Web Desk

Deadly Karachi chemical factory fire kills 17 labourers

Blaze breaks out at a factory in Korangi; no cause for the fire determined yet; bodies of 12 people identified

Web Desk
Rescue officials facing difficulties in the rescue operation due to smoke. — Screengrab/Geo News
Rescue officials facing difficulties in the rescue operation due to smoke. — Screengrab/Geo News

  • Fire engulfs chemical factory in Karachi, kills 17 labourers.
  • Two firefighters injured while trying to put out blaze.
  • Eye witnesses say fire brigade arrived late to douse blaze.
  • No cause for the fire ascertained yet.

KARACHI: At least 17 labourers have lost their lives in a fire that broke out at a chemical factory in Karachi on Friday, Geo News reported, citing rescue and government officials.

According to Deputy Commissioner Korangi Samiullah Odho, 17 bodies have been pulled out from the factory premises.

"We have not received any word regarding any more people being trapped inside," he said.

The blaze broke out today morning at a factory in Mehran Town, Korangi.

According to Chief Fire Officer Mubeen Ahmed, after the bodies were  retrieved from inside the building and the area was "cleared", fire fighters swept the area once more for the satisfaction of the affected families who are in search of their loved ones. 

"After the search operation is complete, we will begin to examine the events that occurred," he said, adding that no cause had yet been determined for the fire.

Rescue officials said they had asked for heavy machinery to break the factory walls. It was earlier reported that they faced difficulties in the rescue operation due to smoke. Till 1:35pm, the police said more than 20 people were feared to be inside the factory.

According to eye witnesses, the fire brigade arrived late to douse the blaze. But Sindh government spokesperson Murtaza Wahab denied these reports, saying that the fire broke out at 10:09am and the fire brigade was alerted and left for the scene by 10:10am.

Jinnah hospital officials confirmed receiving 16 bodies, of which 12 have been identified and the the process to ascertain the identity of the remaining four is underway. 

Two firefighters were injured while trying to put out the blaze, Geo News reported.

In addition, a man survived, but lost four of his brothers and a nephew to the fire.

5 laid to rest

Later in the evening, five of the victims were laid to rest in the Mewa Shah graveyard.

They included three brothers, who were residents of Usman Abad Dhobi Ghat.

The funeral prayers were led by Mufti Ali Asghar Atari and attended by MQM's Farooq Sattar, Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui and Aminul Haq, PPP's Waqar Mehdi, Javed Nagori and Khalil Hoot, as well as PTI's Khurram Sher Zaman and others.

Sunni Tehreek's Sarwar Aijaz Qadri was also present.

Sindh CM Murad Ali Shah takes notice, briefing given to Murtaza Wahab

The Korangi deputy commissioner provided a briefing on the rescue operation to Karachi administrator Murtaza Wahab.

"The fire was brought under control timely," the deputy commissioner said.

According to Odho, after the 17 bodies were pulled out, the factory was sealed.

Wahab later met with the affected families and assured them the Sindh government stands by them and will ensure a thorough probe into the incident.

He told them that the Sindh chief minister has already taken notice of the matter and that justice will be served.

Wahab earlier said that Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah took notice of the fire and sought a report from the Karachi commissioner and labour department on how the fire broke out.

The Sindh chief minister has asked the concerned authorities to explain how the incident took place, what precautionary and safety arrangements were taken in the factory and how so many lives were lost.

Shah gave orders to the authorities to extend full support to the bereaved families and for the injured to be provided the best possible treatment.

Factory turned into an 'oven'

Geo News correspondent Talha Hashmi, reporting from the site of the incident, said that he had found that the factory was established on a residential plot, making it illegal.

"The factory was practically turned into an oven. I visited the factory premises. The windows had iron grills, then a steel mesh and then a glass layer," he said, adding that the Karachi heat already makes things unbearable and one can imagine the discomfort the workers must be feeling.

He said the fire broke out in the passage on the ground floor that leads to stairs. Some 10 people were pulled out from the ground floor, while others had gone up and had died due to suffocation, he added.

What could have served as an emergency exit on the second floor, was locked, Hashmi said.

"So people died less due to being engulfed by the flames, and more due to suffocation."

Hashmi said that two new fire tenders that were about five minutes away, at the Korangi Association of Trade and Industry (KATI) office, but there was no one available to drive them. Other tenders that came from elsewhere faced a shortage of water.

'Only one way to enter factory'

In an earlier update on the blaze, the chief fire officer told Geo News that 13 fire tenders and a snorkel were being used to put out the blaze.

He said a rescue vehicle and water board tanker were also present on the scene.

"There is only one way to enter the factory," the chief fire officer said, explaining that the roof of the factory was also locked, making it difficult for the labourers to escape.

The fire has been brought under control and the cooling process is underway, he said.

Called for help, but there was no one to listen: factory worker

One of the factory worker's told Geo News that he arrived at the facility early morning around 4am and four of his brothers were with him.

He said all four of them have burned to death.

The eyewitness said they not know how the fire started. "There was no short-circuit and neither was food being prepared," he said, adding that when the fire broke out, they called for help, but there was no one to listen.

The factory worker said that there were 25 people inside the factory at the time of the fire, including him.

Korangi deputy commissioner 'clueless' on what happened

Geo News reported that the Korangi deputy commissioner reached the spot five hours after the fire broke out.

"As soon as I got the information, I reached the spot," Samiullah Odho said, adding that he "didn't know how" so many people died in the fire.

"I didn't even know that the factory is on a residential building," he said, assuring the media that he would "investigate" why the fire brigade officials reached late.