Local government officials have found at least 63 factories in residential areas in the city that pose an extremely high fire risk, The Express Tribune has learnt.
In an ongoing survey, the District Office of Enterprise and Investment Promotion has found over 10,000 factories in Lahore, around 7,500 of which are located illegally in residential areas.
The Industries Department ordered a survey of all factories in the city after the collapse of the Orient Labs factory in Kharak in March, killing 26 workers. Last month, 23 died in a fire at a shoe factory on Bund Road.
The district office has completed its survey in eight of the nine towns of Lahore, excluding Ravi Town. The surveyors created a safety index upon which each factory was judged. For example, an industrial unit was given 10 points if it was located in a highly congested area that was inaccessible to fire fighting vehicles.
Other factors that made factories vulnerable was a lack of fire safety equipment, the presence of boilers or other high-pressure vessels, or the presence of highly flammable chemicals. Factories that ended up with more than 50 points were termed highly dangerous.
District Officer for Enterprise and Investment Promotion Muhammad Azhar Hussain said that 63 factories had been found to be very vulnerable to fire.
He said that the survey was started after the Kharak incident to check all the industrial units in Lahore. He said that the surveyors were also checking industrial units which claimed to be cottage industries, as well as factories in industrial zones such as Quaid-i-Azam Industrial Estate, Sundar Industrial Estate and a section of Ferozepur Road. They had inspected steel re-rolling mills near Mehmood Booti, pharmaceutical factories on Multan Road, and textiles and chemical units. He said that there were around 2,000 factories located in industrial zones.
Hussain said that many of the factories located in residential areas claimed to be cottage industries but none of them had building or environmental approval.
He said that after the survey, a plan would be drawn up to move the illegal industries out of Lahore, starting with the most dangerous. He said that boiler inspection teams and Labour Department teams were also currently conducting checks of factories in Lahore.
According to the survey, there are 1,339 factories in Samanabad Town, 1,033 factories in Ravi Town, 1,534 factories in Data Gunj Baksh Town, 531 factories in Iqbal Town, 601 factories in Gulberg Town, 407 factories in Nishter Town, 717 factories in Shalimar Town, 1,033 factories in Wahga Town and 304 factories in Aziz Bhatti Town.
Punjab Emergency Service (Rescue 1122) Director General Dr Rizwan Naseer has directed all district emergency officers to send fire safety officials to factories and commercial buildings for education purposes, in view of the increasing number of fire emergencies in the province, said a Rescue 1122 press release.
The officials will discuss fire safety measures with the factory and building owners during these visits. Some 10,850 factories all over the Punjab have already been visited, said the press release.
Dr Naseer said factory owners must ensure emergency exits are marked with fluorescent stickers, evacuation plans are displayed at entry points and emergency stairs isolated by fire doors in all multi-storey buildings. Factory owners have also been asked to install multipurpose DCP (dry chemical powder) fire extinguishers, fire alarms and fire hydrant systems in all buildings.
Rescue 1122 responded to 472 fire incidents in the Punjab in September, most of them in factories and commercial high rise buildings, according to the Rescue 1122 Provincial Monitoring Cell.
The fire emergencies included 124 fires in Lahore, 52 in Faisalabad, 46 in Rawalpindi, 38 in Multan, 26 in Gujranawala, 12 in Bahawalpur, 14 in Sargodha, 19 in Sahiwal, 12 in Jhang and 16 in Sialkot. No fires were reported in Murree, Pakpattan and Mianwali.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 3rd, 2012.
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