KARACHI: Closed doors made the situation worse, deposed two eyewitness workers of the fire-wrecked garment factory in Baldia Town while recording their testimony in court on Tuesday.
Machine operator Umer and accountant Khuram Iqbal, who escaped the devastating fire that destroyed the garment factory and killed about 289 people, recorded their testimony before Judicial Magistrate Karachi West Sohail Ahmed Mashori. This is the second set of proceedings into the fire. On Tuesday, a two-member commission, headed by Justice (retd) Zahid Qurban Alvi, also heard testimonies separately.
Meanwhile, machine operator Umer told the magistrate that he worked on the first floor of the factory. On that evening, he heard an explosion on the ground floor and then the noise of workers who said a fire had erupted. After a while, smoke started spreading. He had hardly reached a window where someone from the outside threw him a rope. He jumped out and fell unconscious.
He had tried to reach the exit doors but all three gates were closed.
Khuram Iqbal said he had been working there for three months but he had never seen the doors ever closed like they were on the day of the incident. He said that he informed the chief accountant about the fire and he suggested they call the fire brigade. As they were calling, the chief accountant went home in his car.
He said that the first fire tender reached after about an hour by which time the blaze had engulfed the factory. He stated that the owners were present outside the factory when the fire erupted.
After the hearing, SSP Saqib Sultan told the media that the witnesses had come forward voluntarily. Some other witness will be produced, he added, appealing to people to come forward.
The owners’ bank accounts have been frozen so that the victims can be compensated.
A case (FIR No 343/2012) was registered against the factory owners and others under sections 302, 322, 435, 436, 337 and 34 of the Pakistan Penal Code at the SITE-B police station.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 19th, 2012.