KARACHI — At least 261 people burnt to death as fires swept through two factories in Pakistan, police and government officials said today, raising questions about industrial safety in the nuclear-armed South Asian nation.
Flames raced through a garment factory in the teeming commercial capital of Karachi, killing 236 people. 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 Pakistan’s corrupt and ineffective government has failed to tackle the country’s problems. The country is racked by a Taliban insurgency, widespread poverty, spiralling 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.”
Today, 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 the capital of Sindh.
A preliminary provincial government report on the Lahore fire concluded that the closure of the emergency exits led to the deaths and labour and safety regulations were not applied, government sources said. (Reuters)