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Scores perish in two factory fires in Pakistan

Wed., Sept. 12, 2012

KARACHI, Pakistan – Factory fires that broke out in two major cities in Pakistan killed 85 people and injured dozens more, including some who had to break through barred windows and leap to the ground to escape the flames, officials and survivors said today.

Workers recounted how their colleagues were trapped behind blocked exits, and firefighters said one reason the blazes were so deadly is that the buildings – a shoe factory in the eastern city of Lahore and a garment factory in the southern port of Karachi – lacked clear escape routes.

Such safety issues are common throughout Pakistan.

The most deadly blaze came in Karachi, the country’s economic heart. The head of the emergency department at the Civil Hospital in Karachi, Tariq Kamal Ayubi, said 60 bodies had been taken to the hospital so far.

Pakistani television showed a video of the five-story garment factory with flames leaping from top-floor windows and smoke billowing into the night sky. Firefighters could be seen pounding on the metal grates covering some of the windows and pulling out smoke-covered bodies.

Firefighters were still working today to subdue the deadly blaze that broke out Tuesday evening.

In Lahore, the fire swept through a four-story shoe factory and killed 25 people, some from burns and some from suffocation, said senior police officer Multan Khan. The factory was illegally set up in a residential part of the city.

It broke out when people in the building were trying to start their generator after the electricity went out. Sparks from the generator made contact with chemicals used to make the shoes, igniting the blaze.


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