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Fire in Karachi factory extinguished after 48 hours

14 September, 2012

KARACHI: Rescue team busy in relief activities at the site of burnt garments factory on third day.
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KARACHI: The factory building, which was gutted in a massive blaze on Wednesday, was cleared on Thursday morning, officials said.

Chief Fire Officer Ehtishamuddin said the operation continued all night and the building was cleared after 41 hours after drainage machines pumped water out of the basement.

Talking to reporters, he said the upper three floors had already been cleared but firefighters faced problems while clearing the basement as it was filled with water which had become extremely hot. The fire officer asserted that they had removed all bodies from the factory.

The second floor of the garment factory caught fire last night, however, the fire-tenders brought it under control. On Thursday morning, affected families staged a protest demonstration over the administration's lethargy. They said they would themselves drain out the accumulated water after breaking the wall of the factory.

As many as 217 bodies were kept at Edhi Centre, of them 107 have been handed over to the aggrieved families after identification. Eight bodies will be dispatched to different areas of Punjab, including Muzaffargarh and Rahim Yar Khan. An official at the Edhi Centre said the bodies would be transported to various cities of Punjab free.

Announcing a three-day mourning, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement has called off all organisational and political activities.

Meanwhile, Shahid Bela, the factory owner, has vowed to compensate heirs of the victims. Expressing grief over the deaths, he said the families of the victims would be compensated, according to a private TV channel.

Separately, the government registered murder charges against factory bosses and government officials over the deaths of 289 people in Karachi incident.

Workers suffocated or were burnt alive at the Ali Enterprises garment factory in Karachi, which made ready-to-wear clothing for Western export, when a massive fire tore through the building during the evening shift on Tuesday.

Up to 600 people were working in the building, which officials said was in poor condition without emergency exits, forcing dozens to jump from upper storeys to escape the flames.

Others were trapped in the basement, where they perished.

"We have registered a murder case against the owners of the factory and several government officials for showing utter negligence to provide adequate security to the factory workers," said Mohammad Nawaz Gondal, head of the local police station. Senior Karachi police officer Naeem Akram confirmed the move.

The case has been filed against Abdul Aziz, Mohammad Arshad and Shahid Bela and other members of the management of Ali Enterprises, Gondal said.

A retired judge will lead an inquiry into the fire, with initial findings expected in a week. The probe will look into the cause of the blaze, protection systems available inside the building and the extent of negligence on the owners' part, a government statement said.

Nasir Mansoor of the National Trade Union Federation said safety measures were ignored at the factory. "At Ali Enterprises there was only one exit point for more than 500 workers at the time of the emergency, all the windows had iron grills and doorways and stairs were stuffed with finished merchandise," he said.

Public transport was suspended and schools and colleges closed. Factories and markets also shut while attendance at offices was thin.

Of the 289 who died, 23 were women, the Sindh Health Department said. The bodies of 178 people had been identified so far and handed over to their families.

End.

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