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Human error not the cause of fire, says municipal official

A mysterious fire that broke out in a garment factory at Baldia Town on Tuesday was brought in control after 19 hours. The havoc wreaked by this third-degree fire that broke out at Ali Enterprises located at plot F-67 at Hub road. Chief United Rescue Services Muhammad Naeem Yousuf said fatalities could have been reduced, if three of two exits of the factory had not been closed, adding that most of charred bodies were found near windows that were sealed with grills to avoid thefts in the factory.

"We found 52 bodies near windows and most of them were suffocated," he said. "Several victims were found in a comatose condition and others burnt alive when volatile fumes were emitted after fire". "We have cleared almost 80 percent of the factory and recovered over 280 bodies after hectic efforts of 19 hours; the rescue operation at ground, first and second floors was completed while rescuers were busy in one of the basement portions, which was filled with hot water".

He feared that the death toll would cross 300 mark as the survivors in their statements said that several factory workers had ran to the basement after fire started. Meanwhile, chief fire fighter Ehtishamuddin Siddiqui said the fire fighters were now busy in cooling operation. He said the fire engulfed the factory and fire fighters faced immense difficulties in extinguishing the fire due to single exit.

Dr Shaukat Zaman, senior director Municipal Services while talking to Business Recorder ruled out the cause of fire as human error, saying that several survivors claimed hearing a blast in the basement before the fire erupted at second floor. He suspected that the incident might have been planted, due to personal enmity.

"Although it is premature to say anything about the incident as investigation is underway. He also claimed that the construction of this ill-fated factory, which was established in 1990, was illegal, saying that SITE Association had approved its revised construction plan comprised basement, ground plus mezzanine floor.

However, the owners of factory Shahid Memon had illegally constructed basement, ground plus two storey building without emergency exits. He held factory owners, who absconded after the incident, responsible for the causalities, saying that he requested to the Governor Sindh Dr Ishratul Ibad to grant permission to initiate an inquiry in this regard. When contacted, chairman SITE Irfan Moton, he was not available on phone for comments. A case (343/12) was registered in SITE-B police station against factory owner Shahid Memon, his brother Rashid and his Nephew Ali.

DIG West Akram Naeem Baroka said the raids were being conducted to nab the nominated persons and the cases related to labour law violation would also be registered against them. Governor Sindh Dr Ishrat-ul-Ibad, Babar Ghouri, Dr Sagheer Ahmad, Rauf Siddiqui, Pir Mazharul Haq, Sharjeel Memon and others visited the incident place. Meanwhile, IG Sindh has constituted an inquiry committee to investigate the matter.

Chief Minister Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah has announced Rs 0.3 million each compensation to families of people died in Baldia fire incident. Meanwhile, Commissioner Karachi Roshan Ali Sheikh during his visit confirmed the death toll to 289, of which, some 84 bodies were shifted to Civil Hospital Karachi, 100 bodies were at Abbasi Shaheed Hospital and rest of the others were at Jinnah and Edhi Morgue.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2012


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