14 killed as building collapses in Lahore, dozens still trapped: Officials

Published: February 6, 2012

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.

Reader Comments (24)

  • shadi
    Feb 6, 2012 - 9:51AM

    wow not only pakistanis medicines..but even the places where they are made are unreliable

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  • Sajid I Brrr.
    Feb 6, 2012 - 9:51AM

    May be they were trying to use dynamite and/or TNT in their Paracetamols for profit maximization.

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  • Mohammad Ali Siddiqui
    Feb 6, 2012 - 10:21AM

    The main reason for the three-storey building collapse is inadequate safety precautions which are general ignored by the factory owners.

    In Pakistan people talk a lot about international standards and prevention from similar incidents but unfortunately no body want to spend money to take safety precautions.

    Unless the things will go in the peculiar Pakistani Style, such incidents will keep on occurring in future as well.

    I am grieved on this incident but what the low paid workers can do in earning their bread and butter and accept employment in any environment and under all circumstances.

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  • antanu
    Feb 6, 2012 - 10:45AM

    usual case here in India. one collapsed just infront of me.

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  • Insomniac
    Feb 6, 2012 - 11:32AM

    So sorry to hear that, but hang on let me guess what CM of Punjab did right after the incident he suspended the ‘SHO’ and asked to arrest the builders and the owners of the building and set up an inquiry team. Correct me if I’m wrong.
    Cheers!

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  • John B
    Feb 6, 2012 - 12:20PM

    “The factory was supposed to be sealed. We will investigate why it was still running”

    Any connection to the fake drug rackets ?

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  • Karan
    Feb 6, 2012 - 12:30PM

    The buildings also dont want to be a part of a failing nation ;)

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  • THE
    Feb 6, 2012 - 2:25PM

    @Karan: Pathetic and Sick comment! Shows your true face!Recommend

  • FJ
    Feb 6, 2012 - 2:27PM

    @shadi:
    We do not need Indians (or non/Pakistani) people opinion…stop stereotyping!

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  • Acorn Guts
    Feb 6, 2012 - 2:34PM

    I know it is fashionable to lambast the CM on every boiler, tablet and misshapen brick that comes out of Punjab but let’s not forget the factory owners who insist violating health and safety guidelines and know they’ll walk away scot free if things go pear shaped. Lets make sure justice is served, the factory owners are ‘publicly’ punished for every of the victims (be it this tragedy or tainted medicines) do this and send out a warning to everyone!

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  • Akhtar
    Feb 6, 2012 - 3:58PM

    Now PTI will blame PML(N). I regret the loss of lives. Sadly, safety & quality takes the last seat in our country!

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  • Shumaila
    Feb 6, 2012 - 4:09PM

    Let’s not debate the construction just yet…and focus on rescuing the poor vicitims!

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  • PML N
    Feb 6, 2012 - 4:09PM

    Shame on all who are laying blame on CM Sharif, he has ordered an inquiry and will unveil the true culprits behind this disaster. Why did LHC stay the demolition of illegal building structures???

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  • Feb 6, 2012 - 4:11PM

    My God.

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  • Feb 6, 2012 - 4:13PM

    It is result of some mistakes.

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  • Zeta
    Feb 6, 2012 - 4:31PM

    @Karan:
    Take that what you said and shove it in darkest of the holes.

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  • siddique
    Feb 6, 2012 - 4:49PM

    CM has 22 ministries .he is superman.who is responsible.no one because no government in punjab.

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  • Indian
    Feb 6, 2012 - 7:22PM

    @Karan:

    This is not the way we Indians react to an unfortunate incident. If you want to score point, you can do it on the genuine issue of terrorism and other stuff. We only hate pakistan’s army,ISI and it’s foreign policy but we don not hate people of Pakistan bcoz they are just like us. So pls stop ruining soft image of Indians by your stupid comments.

    This is serious matter. In such situation we Indians should provide solidarity and moral support to people there who have died.

    These things happens in Mumbai, Delhi everywhere in our country also.

    I feel sorry for the comment made by Mr. Karan. My deep condolences to those who died.Recommend

  • SaudiRules
    Feb 6, 2012 - 8:51PM

    “DG Naseer, while talking to The Express Tribune, said that around 17 girls and 45 boys were still trapped under the building”

    Does this mean the factory was also using child laborers?

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  • IndianDude
    Feb 7, 2012 - 12:21AM

    @Karan,
    Your comment is in bad taste.
    @antanu,
    Thank Allah, you weren’t hurt:(. Also stop pretending that you are an Indian. Be proud of being a pakistani!

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  • Grace
    Feb 7, 2012 - 12:38AM

    @siddique: Buildings collapse all over the 3 rd World due to the poor construction practices of builders and people themselves. Whether India, Turkey, Egypt or some African country. What we need to find out is why this building had a running factory when it was supposed to be closed and why the construction was poor. You only want to blame the CM because you have no idea that the CM is not to blame. You are only interested in casting aspersions but I can tell you if not for the CM of Punjab, conditions would be much worse- maybe even as bad as in Karachi. So please, do not criticise people for no reason.

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  • chumpalicia
    Feb 7, 2012 - 12:51AM

    corrupton kills

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  • Shane Hashmi
    Feb 7, 2012 - 1:36AM

    @Indian:
    I appreciate your clarification and sentiments. I also realize that there is a mere minority of such people who exploit such tragedies in an effort to score a point.

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  • dv sikka
    Feb 7, 2012 - 2:10AM

    A pathetic tale of corruption.

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