May 22, 2013
Fires engulf Pakistan factories killing 314 workers
At least 314 people burnt to death as fire swept through factories in two cities in Pakistan, police and government officials said, raising questions about industrial safety in the South Asian nation.
Flames raced through a garment factory in the teeming commercial capital of Karachi, killing 289 people. Many people had been lining up to collect their paycheques, officials said.
Weeping relatives in hospitals and morgues heaped criticism on the deeply unpopular government.
"People started screaming for their lives," said Mohammad Asif, 20. "Everyone came to the window. I jumped from the third floor."
In the eastern city of Lahore, a fire raged in a shoe factory, killing at least 25 people.
Critics say nuclear-armed Pakistan's corrupt and ineffective government has failed to tackle the country's problems. The country is racked by a Taliban insurgency, widespread poverty, spiraling crime and daily power cuts.
"The owners were more concerned with safeguarding the garments in the factory than the workers," said garment factory employee Mohammad Pervez, holding up a photograph of his cousin, who is also a worker there and is missing.
"If there were no metal grilles on the windows a lot of people would have been saved. The factory was overflowing with garments and fabrics. Whoever complained was fired."
On Wednesday, a provincial minister ordered an inspection of all factories and industrial plants in Sindh province within 48 hours. Karachi, home to 18 million people, is Sindh's capital.
A preliminary provincial government report on the Lahore fire concluded that the closure of the emergency exits led to the deaths, and labor and safety regulations were not applied, government sources said.
At a Karachi hospital, about 30 bodies burnt beyond recognition were lined up at a morgue.
"There is no space left here. It's full," said ambulance worker Wasif Ali. "They keep coming."