289 burnt alive in Pakistan's worst industrial disaster

Published: 14 September 2012 10:58 CET

By Rabia Ajaib in Islamabad

Whilst parts of Pakistan are grappling with a new wave of monsoon floods for the third consecutive year, a massive fire in a garment factory in city of Karachi broke out on September 11, continued for two days and left 289 people dead.

The fire is thought to have been caused by a generator which burst into flames, and the death toll was made worst by the fact that hundred of workers had gathered in the factory to collect their wages. There were no warning alarms, insufficient exits and many of the windows were blocked with metal grills, meaning people were not able to escape.

Nasreen Bibi, whose three young daughters and son had been working in factory, said: “I don’t want anything except my children back. I cannot imagine a life without them.”

According to sources, 65 people managed to escape by jumping from the roof, leading to broken bones and a number of deaths and among the dead inside the factory were a number of teenagers who had accompanied their mothers to work.

Pakistan Red Crescent Society immediately mobilized two Emergency Response Teams, consisting of 25 members including First Aid qualified staff, two paramedics and trained volunteers and four ambulances. They provided first aid services to the injured and clean drinking water, masks and food to other rescue teams.

Currently, two teams are still working at the scene in shifts to ensure maximum relief. “We are here to help out the rescue teams and will stay until they complete their search operation for more bodies,” says Syed Mohammad Kashif Ali, Emergency Response officer with the Pakistan Red Cross Society

Many of the recovered bodies were not recognizable, and many families have handed over blood samples for the DNA-testing and identification.

Sources on the scene said the death toll could rise as their may be more bodies in the basement of the building. The relatives of those missing still wait outside the burnt out structure, hoping to get some kind of information about their loved ones.

“I am running between the factory building, the hospitals and the morgue for the last two days to find the dead body of my young son, Abbas Ahmad, but have still not found him,” says Ahmar Ali, a father of three.

An investigation commission has been formed by the Pakistan government that will share a complete investigation report within three days.