LAHORE: 14 people were killed while 12 others were rescued alive from the debris of a factory building which collapsed on Monday as a result of a gas explosion, said Director General (DG) Rescue 1122 Rizwan Naseer.
DG Naseer, while talking to The Express Tribune, said that around 17 girls and 45 boys were had been trapped under the building, and said that the rescue operation had started from three sides of the building to pull out as many survivors safely, as possible. He also confirmed that the rescue officials were communicating with three people presently trapped under the debris.
Those rescued from the rubble include Akbar 70, Saddeeq 25, Kaleem 35, Shumaila 17, Nazia 20, Shahida 13, Hassan 20, Parveen 17, Amin 40, Anees, Shazia and Sardar, Rescue officials confirmed.
The DG added that the survivors stuck under the debris have confirmed that there were several bodies stuck underneath, and further indicated that the operation could take more than 20 hours to complete.
The locals said that they heard a huge explosion at around 8:35am, followed by noise of a building collapse. “My house is near the factory. I felt a strong jolt and my house shook. I thought it was a bombing,” said Awais Raza.
The locals said that the pharmaceutical company worked around the clock with more than 100 hundred workers, which included mostly under-age children and women.
They further told that the factory, called Orient Lab (Pvt) Limited, was owned by four brothers including, Shiekh Zubair and Sheikh Zaheer, and it was operating in the area since 1981.
Rescue workers said that two nearby houses also partially collapsed in the incident; however, no one in the neighborhood got injured.
Cause of the collapse
Director Construction and Works Sabir Khan Sadozai, who arrived at the sight to assist the rescue work, told The Express Tribune that the building was not constructed according to the building codes.
“This building was not even satisfactory for residence,” he added.
He said that these kinds of pharmaceutical companies should not be allowed to operate in residential areas as they also have a health hazard. He said that the building could have collapsed due to a boiler explosion, however; the cause could not be ascertained.
“Initial reports say more than 100 people were present in the factory when it collapsed, possibly because of a gas cylinder explosion,” rescue official Mohammed Aamir told AFP.
Factory operating illegally
Rana Amjad, one of the two neighbours whose house was affected in the incident, said that this company was illegally operating. He said that the building was sealed four years ago on court orders for illegal construction, but was later reopened. He said that an application was also moved to the Sabzazar police station but to no avail.
SP Sadar Shoaib Khurram told The Express Tribune that since it was a civil matter, the police do not have much authority to exercise in this regard. He said that they were tracking down the application moved to the concerned police station.
A senior city official said the factory should not have been operating.
“The factory was supposed to be sealed. We will investigate why it was still running,” city official Ahad Cheema told reporters.
Tariq Zaman, principal staff officer to the district coordination officer, clarified that the factory was producing veterinary medicines, not human medicines.
He added that previously the factory had been sealed twice by the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) because of its failure to comply with proper building codes. However, the factory was reopened later, said Zaman.
The Labour Party, in a show of solidarity with the workers, staged a protest at the site and have demanded that an action be taken against the factory owners. The protestors criticised the City District Government Lahore (CDGL) for not taking proper action to ensure the safety of the workers of the factory.