At least 16 labourers died and five others were injured on Friday after a blaze erupted at a leather bag manufacturing factory in Mehran Town area of Korangi in Karachi.
Fire brigade officials declared the blaze to be a third-degree fire.
As the owner of the factory had installed grills on the windows, the workers were trapped inside.
A large number of labourers were present in the factory when the fire erupted at around 10 am.
Those on the ground floor managed to escape. However, those on the first and second floors were not that lucky. They rushed to the roof but found it to be locked.
According to sources, 16 bodies had so far been recovered from the factory. They died of burn wounds or asphyxiation.
The cause of the fire is yet to be ascertained.
A rescue worker fell from the building and was seriously injured.
The bodies and the injured were taken to the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Hospital (JPMC). An emergency was declared at the medical facility.
Fire brigade officials said the grills on the windows of the factory also hindered the fire-fighting and rescue operation, adding that there were no fire extinguishers there.
Fire Officer Saeedullah said 12 vehicles, snorkels and bowsers were used to douse the flames.
He added that the presence of thinner, kerosene and glue in the factory helped spread the fire rapidly.
The Korangi assistant commissioner sealed the factory and police are trying to contact the owner.
Karachi Commissioner Naveed Shaikh reached the scene and directed rescue workers to speed up their efforts.
He added that the fire had been controlled and the cooling process was now under way.
Talking to the media, Karachi Director Health Dr Akram Sultan said the incident took place at a leather bag factory.
He added that rescue vehicles had made their way into the premises of the factory by breaking down its walls along the front and back gates.
“There was intense heat inside the factory despite the cooling process because of which several rescue workers fainted.”
Dr Sultan further said seven of the bodies had been identified and DNA and other tests will be conducted to identify the rest of the victims.
According to a Rangers spokesperson, the area had been cordoned off and the paramilitary force was engaged in relief efforts with the rescue teams.
The spokesperson added that the blaze was now under control and rescue efforts were under way.
Taking notice of the incident, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah expressed deep sorrow over the loss of lives, and sought a report from the Karachi commissioner and the labour department.
He questioned as to how the incident took place and whether any security measures were in place.
The chief minister directed the relevant authorities to provide full support to the families of the deceased workers.
Sindh Governor Imran Ismail also expressed his grief over the deaths of the labourers in the fire. He prayed for the victims and wished profound patience for the bereaved families.
Ismail directed to ensure a timely treatment for those injured in the incident.
Karachi Administrator Murtaza Wahab told reporters that the fire department was alerted of the blaze at 10:09 am.
He added that the fire had been extinguished and cooling efforts were under way.
“Police and the fire department are investigating the incident…the findings will be shared with the media.”
Labour Secretary Rasheed Ahmed Solangi has directed the joint director labour east and joint director safety and health to reach the site of the incident.
He also directed them to furnish a detailed report of the reasons within 24 hours.
Solangi also asked the officials as to when the last inspection of the factory was carried out.
PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif stopped the party's members from according him a welcome upon his arrival at the Karachi airport in view of the tragic incident.
According to PML-N Sindh President Shah Muhammad Shah, all programmes pertaining to the PML-N president's welcome to the city had been postponed. He urged PML-N activists to refrain from heading to the airport.
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