14Sep 2012
by The Safety Centre

289 People Die In Karachi Factory Fire

Officials say at least 289 people have died in a tragic fire at a garment factory in the Pakistani city of Karachi.
Reports also suggest that there were next to no fire safety precautions, and that grilles on the windows left hundreds trapped in the basement with no access to fire exits.

People were seen jumping from the roof of the five storey building in an attempt to escape the inferno.

The fire is under investigation but suspected to involve faulty electricity generators.

An eyewitness, Mohammad Saleem, speaking with AFP news agency said: “It was terrible, suddenly the entire floor filled with fire and smoke and the heat was so intense that we rushed towards the windows, broke its steel grille and glass and jumped out.

“I fell on the ground and it was extremely painful, I saw many people jumping out of windows and crying in pain for help.”

The death toll is likely to continue to rise with firefighters still removing bodies from the scene of the devastating blaze. City official Roshan Shaikh said “The death toll is 289. This is not final – the search for more bodies continues.”

There was only one exit from the building and eyewitnesses reported a stampede towards it made it all the more difficult to escape.

Speaking with BBC Urdu News Agency, one survivor spoke of his escape from the third floor, but five members of his family were not so lucky.

He said: “We started running towards the exit. There were 150-200 people all running and pushing each other. I fell down unconscious.”

“Then I managed to get some air from a vent. I started screaming. A crane made a hole in the wall and I was able to jump. I begged the rescue workers to help my relatives, but no-one paid any attention.”

The size of the death toll makes this one of the deadliest workplace fires of all time, and is a reflection of the cramped and dangerous conditions facing workers in Pakistan.

Adequate automatic fire alarm systems are one way of ensuring that fires are detected early, so that an alarm can be raised to ensure the building occupants can evacuate the building safely before the fire grows.  Suitable automatic fire alarm systems would also mean that the fire could be identified much earlier and allow people to extinguish the fire before it has time to grow or for the fire brigade to be alerted of the fire at a much earlier stage.

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