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article imageUp to 261 workers killed in factory fires in Pakistan (video)

By Anne Sewell     Sep 12, 2012 in World
Karachi - Two factories in Pakistan were gutted by fire on Tuesday, killing up to 261 people. Rescue work in Karachi and Lahore continues today.
One fire began in a garment factory on Tuesday evening in Pakistan's economic capital of Karachi.
The blaze continued through the night, trapping many employees in the buildings.
Around 40 firefighting vehicles and crews were dispatched to fight the blaze, but the five-storey building was still smouldering on Wednesday morning.
Witnesses said that the fire spread at astounding speed, leaving workers struggling to escape from the factory. The factory's gates were closed, and it has been reported that windows on the ground floor were barred, which prevented people from escaping and many jumped from upper floor windows and the roof.
A doctor at a local hospital, Karar Abbadsi, reported that many of the survivors were injured after jumping from the factory's windows to escape the fire. One of these survivors was a 27-year-old pregnant woman, who is now having problems with her baby.
Karachi Chief Fire Officer, Ehtishamud Deen said that most of the victims suffocated in the smoke. He said further that the cause of the fire has not yet been established.
Mohammad Ilyas, an injured factory worker told AP, "I jumped from my seat as did others and rushed toward the windows, but iron bars on the windows barred us from escaping. Some of us quickly took tools and machines to break the iron bars. That was how we managed to jump out of the windows down to the ground floor."
Senior police official, Amjad Farooqi told AP, "There were no safety measures taken in the building design. There was no emergency exit. All the people got trapped."
A garment factory employee, Mohammad Pervez, told Reuters "The owners were more concerned with safeguarding the garments in the factory than the workers," while holding up a photograph of his cousin, who is also a worker in the factory and is missing.
"If there were no metal grilles on the windows a lot of people would have been saved. The factory was overflowing with garments and fabrics. Whoever complained was fired," he added.
2 factories in Pakistan were engulfed in flames on Tuesday evening.
2 factories in Pakistan were engulfed in flames on Tuesday evening.
Video screen capture
In a separate fire in Lahore, the blaze swept through a four-story shoe factory in one of the city's residential zones.
Shabdir Hussain told Reuters from his hospital bed, "We saw our colleagues burning alive, in flames. We could do nothing. We saved our lives by jumping from the roof."
In Lahore, initial reports point to the fire being caused a faulty electric generator. As the city's power grid is not reliable, many businesses and homeowners rely on diesel or gasoline generators during brownouts. Witnesses on the scene said that sparks from a generator at the factory reportedly ignited chemicals used to make shoes.
Reuters is reporting the current death toll from both fires at 261, but more could be discovered as rescue operations continue.
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