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Dozens Die in Pakistan Factory Collapse

Monday, November 9, 2015

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At least 23 people have died after a factory in Pakistan that was undergoing renovation work collapsed Wednesday (Nov. 4) night.

The collapse happened in an industrial area of Lahore, where more than 150 people were working at the time, according to a Thursday (Nov. 5) CNN report. The news channel also reported that at least 80 people were hurt and were being treated at area hospitals.

As of Friday (Nov. 6), rescuers were continuing to dig through the rubble in an attempt to recover possible survivors.

According to a Reuters report, at least 102 survivors had been pulled from the debris of the four-story building, and the cause of the collapse remained unknown. The factory, which reportedly makes polythene shopping bags, was undergoing construction work to add a new floor to the building, Reuters said.

Screenshot / Reuters

At least 23 people died when the Pakistani factory in which they were working collapsed. Reports indicate construction was ongoing there even after an earthquake shook the area.

Injured survivors said the building’s owner had ignored advice from a contractor working on the building to stop construction after finding cracks in the walls following a nearby 7.5 magnitude earthquake in late October, the report added.

Survivor Stories

“Suddenly, I saw cracks appearing in the pillars,” Muhammad Ramzan, 22, told a Reuters reporter. “I immediately drew the owner’s attention towards the cracks. He was watching them when the roof collapsed and I saw him being crushed by a heap of concrete that led to his death.”

Survivors led rescuers to victims trapped underneath the debris by using their mobile phones, the report said.

“I ran towards the stairs but they collapsed before I reached there and then the whole building collapsed,” said survivor Mohammad Asghar, 16, who reportedly had a broken arm and a head injury. “I stayed in touch with my father on the phone and was recovered after 13 hours.”

The earthquake in question occurred Oct. 26 in neighboring Afghanistan and killed at least 400 people, according to a Friday (Nov. 6) article in the Hindustan Times. The news source indicated that the owner had continued to build the extension on the factory despite warnings that the building may have suffered damage as a result of the quake.

“I have heard about the earthquake affecting the building but according to laborers, the owner continued to build an extension,” Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif told the news source.

Poor Safety Record

The Hindustan Times noted that Pakistan has a poor safety record in the construction and maintenance of buildings. At least 24 people died in 2014 when a mosque collapsed in the same city, and more than 200 people had lost their lives because of collapsed roofs during torrential rains and flooding.

©iStock.com / pawel.gaul

The contractor and workers reportedly said they saw cracks in the walls (not shown) and asked the owner to stop the work. Pakistan has a poor workplace safety record, reports said.

In 2012, the news source noted, at least 255 workers died when a fire destroyed a clothing factory in Karachi. That remains one of the deadliest industrial accidents in Pakistan history, the Hindustan Times said.

During the investigation of that incident, officials found that the factory did not have enough exit doors, had poorly trained its workers regarding safety and had over-packed machinery inside. A judicial probe also noted that government inspectors had failed to spot any of those dangers.

A murder case was brought against the factory owners but has never gone to trial, the news source noted.

Rescue Operation

Meanwhile, in the recent incident, rescue workers indicated they were having difficulty reaching victims because of heavy debris and narrow streets.

The Hindustan Times said three cranes, a bulldozer and more than 40 emergency rescue vehicles were working at the site.

“It is such a big incident that we have called rescue workers from other nearby districts,” said Jam Sajjad Hussain, a spokesman for the rescue services.

   

Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; Building owners; Commercial Buildings; Commercial Construction; Construction; Contractors; Fatalities; Health and safety; Maintenance + Renovation; Renovation; Safety

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