Karachi fire toll put at 259; murder case against managers
Karachi: Pakistan on Friday put the death toll from its worst industrial disaster to 259 as the government registered a case of murder against the owner and the manager of the Karachi factory that was gutted in a horrific blaze.
Until now only 177 of the dead bodies had been identified, including 23 women, and efforts are on to identify the other dead.
Sindh's health minister, Sagheer Ahmed, told the media that since the fire broke out and gutted the factory a total of 259 dead bodies had been recovered. The people had either died from suffocation, burns or because they tried to jump from windows to save their lives.
"We have managed to identify 177 bodies but for the remaining bodies we are taking DNA samples from anxious families and relatives whose loved ones or friends were working in the factory.
"Doctors are trying to match the DNA samples with the unidentified bodies to determine their identities,” Ahmed said.
He said earlier the death toll had been put at 290, but later it was found that some bodies had been duplicated in the count at the hospitals where they were taken for storage.
He said a total of 236 men and 23 women had died in the tragic incident.
"The rescue operation is still going on and some more bodies could be recovered or their might be some people trapped inside but the fire has been controlled to a large extent," he said.
The government also announced that it had opened a murder case against the owner of the factory, Ali Enterprises, his two sons and the managers at three-storey garments factory in Baldia town on the outskirts of Karachi.
"We are also investigating whether safety regulations were followed in the factory," senior police official, Aamir Farooqi said.
Sindh police surgeon, Kamaluddin Sheikh, said around 600 people were working in the factory when the fire broke out and many of them had managed to escape with minor injuries or were rescued later.
People were still waiting outside the site of the disaster today to get details of their missing loved ones as there was still thick smoke in the basement and it was still too hot to go inside, where boiling water formed a pool after firefighters spent hours hosing the flaming building.
Chief fire officer, Ehtishamuddin said the fire fighters were waiting for the heat to go down after which they would go through the entire building to look for missing persons and dead bodies.
"The cases filed against these people are under a section which states attempt to kill because we have received reports and are investigating whether when the fire broke out entry and exit points and windows were locked on instruction of managers," senior police official, Aamir Farooqi said.
Speaking to the media in Lahore, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Nawaz Sharif termed the factory fire in Karachi as one of the worst disasters in the world.
He demanded that both the owners and concerned government officials should be held responsible for the incident.
He noted that the government didn't have the will nor resources to ensure enforcement of labour laws and safety measures at work places.
The incident shook people across the country and a pall of gloom descended on the city as television channels showed heart rending stories.
In one particular story it was reported that 17 young men belonging to the same locality in Orangi town were killed in the fire incident.
Some survivors also narrated harrowing tales of watching their loved ones and friends suffocate to death due to the fire and smoke in the building.