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People look at a ship on fire following an explosion in Gadani. —AP
People look at a ship on fire following an explosion in Gadani. —AP

17 people were killed and 58 others injured during a series of explosions that occurred during work on an unused oil tanker in the Gadani shipbreaking yard on Tuesday.

“A gas cylinder explosion caused a huge fire in the ship which was being dismantled,” Balochistan home secretary Akbar Harifal told AFP, ruling out a deliberate attack.

According to sources, the vessel had not fully been drained of oil when the dismantling work was undertaken. As a result, an explosion ripped through the oil tanker at about 9am.

Rescue officials said they have recovered 17 bodies so far, while government officials confirmed death of 16 people.

"We have a confirmed reports of at least 16 people dead at the shipyard," said Deputy Commissioner Lasbela Zulfiqar Ali Shah.

The Deputy superintendent police Hub confirmed the death toll to DawnNews and added that workers said over 100 people were working on the ship at the time.

Blasts at Gadani shipbreaking yard.

The whereabouts of at least 30 other workers remain unknown. Some workers remain trapped inside the ship, whereas others who were able to exit the ship from above threw themselves into the sea, DawnNews reported.

Balochistan Chief Minister Sanaullah Zehri has instructed the district administration to speed up efforts for injured workers.

The Provincial Disaster Management Authority and the National Disaster Management Authority are conducting a joint rescue operation.

Rescue workers are limited in the area, DawnNews reported, adding that only a single fire engine present at the scene has been unsuccessful in putting out the fire.

Industrial accidents are common in Pakistan, with workplaces often forgoing basic safety measures and equipment in the absence of legislation to protect labourers.

A devastating fire at a textile factory in Karachi killed 255 people in 2012.

DAWN_VIDEO - /1029551/DAWN-RM-1x1


Comments (28) Closed



Salman (Kashmir, INDIA) Nov 01, 2016 12:49pm

This is the reason why ship breaking industry is growing in India and declining in Pakistan.

Nasir Nov 01, 2016 12:51pm

The givernment must provide full support including medical costs to the victims

Arshad Nov 01, 2016 01:05pm

Ship breaking is one of the most dangerous & pollutive work in the world. Its mostly done in third world countries. No safety, No healthcare, No decent salaries. Just abuse of poor labor with the help of corrupt officials in environmental department of these countries. I feel sorry for those who lost their life.

Hamid Shafiq Nov 01, 2016 01:52pm

@Salman (Kashmir, INDIA) This is not reason it's lack of Health, Safety and Envoirnment

Tariq Rashid Nov 01, 2016 01:57pm

Investigation should be done and responsibility fixed why fuel tanks of the ship were not completely drained to prevent any accidental explosions in the yard which resulted in loss of human lives. This accident would be prevented if proper safety rules and regulations would have been ensured but who cares..

nafees Nov 01, 2016 02:11pm

Sad

Ali Nov 01, 2016 02:56pm

@Nasir and whats the responsibility of the owners? Employers? are they not liable to ensure safety of their workers?

Zulu Nov 01, 2016 03:27pm

@Salman (Kashmir, INDIA) Below is the reason:

Ship breaking is one of the most dangerous & pollutive work in the world. Its mostly done in third world countries. No safety, No healthcare, No decent salaries. Just abuse of poor labor with the help of corrupt officials in environmental department of these countries. I feel sorry for those who lost their life. Thanks Arshad

Imrran Nov 01, 2016 04:35pm

This is worse then victorian times.....the reason these ships are brought here is because no other country allows her people to be treated like cannon-fodder like Pakistan...

R2D2 Nov 01, 2016 05:58pm

This story was common in Alang ship breaking yard in Gujarat, India till about 15 years ago till the Govt took a strong stand regarding safety standards. What distinguishes third world countries, including China from the Western world, is our complete disregard for human life. China's mine accidents have become legendary.

HD Nov 01, 2016 06:29pm

My sympathies to the victims and I hope the missing ones are found safe.

J. Gamble Nov 01, 2016 06:39pm

I hope this loss of human lives wakes up the authorities concerned, and do the needful to prevent such accidents in the future. RIP.

Alba Nov 01, 2016 06:56pm

A tanker when loaded with oil is not going to explode. Gases explodes. Liquids do not. Once a tanker has unloaded it's cargo the tanks will fill with gas. To prevent this the oil tanks are washed clean by the crew as soon as they are emptied so they will not explode before they are refiled at the next port. If the sailors fail to do this, exploding gas fumes will rip a supertanker apart in the blast. The ships are more dangerous empty than they are loaded with oil. Especially light crude. Apparently when the tanker in question was abandoned the tanks were not purged of oil residue. On board ship safety is job one. Not not in these yards.

Ashok Prabhu Nov 01, 2016 07:31pm

They have not taken precautions while doing the work.

ENVIRONMENTALIST Nov 01, 2016 07:53pm

Ship recycling activity is a tough job and certainly a lot more needs to be done for the safety at the ship recycling yards. However, a fact is that their worker do have basic safety gadgets and the current safety status of Pakistan in ship recycling is better than that of the neighboring countries.

As far as this particular incident is concerned it happened in an Oil Tanker which is here for dismantling. Oil Tankers are the most common type of vessels that come to Pakistan for recycling. They have a mandatory requirement to make it “Gas Free for Hot Woks” before any activity is done because all it needs is a spark to blast. The causes will be identified after investigation but it could be a very minor negligence such as lighting of cigarette by any worker or any other stuff which involves fire.

Let’s hope for minimum casualties. Certainly it’s a very sad incident.

arif khilji Nov 01, 2016 08:19pm

my heart goes out for the victims as more than 200 workers got trapped inside the oil tanker while working and feared for more causalities what counted in media as yet. working in poor condition with any precautions surely will face such calamites on ward no checks and balance by concerned department. I myself visited the scene found people screaming and were limbless even torched bodies unable to identify. first and utmost relevant department be held responsible and then next go for the owner and its team for safety standard.

Sami Khan Nov 01, 2016 09:24pm

@ENVIRONMENTALIST You sound like a typical bureaucrat

Jugnoo Nov 01, 2016 10:51pm

@Alba - Which country the tanker originate and how it was accepted by whom and when - investigation required and culprits need to be brought to justice. The GOP high ups better watch the documentary about the plight of the ship breaking "industry" in Pakistan and miserable working conditions these poor people are exposed to.

suchbaath Nov 01, 2016 10:57pm

The news of horrific accident which killed 12 dead and 58 injured was so unimportant that major networks didn't cover as first headlines in their bulletins, and didn't provide live coverage. Even Imran Khan PTI party or Muslim league N leaders didn't stop and prayed for those who common people who lost their lives, probably they didn't die for their political cause. I think our leaders just worry about their power, and media focus on hot story, and no one care about covering the major accident where so many poor people lost their lives.

Dr. Abdul Mannan Nov 02, 2016 04:58am

Poor souls, we should do something to take care for that.

Amai Nov 02, 2016 08:10am

Since the crude oil fumes can cause a massive pressure in itself, oil tankers tank holds are supposed to be kept open for days before they proceed to dismantle it.

Ather Qureshi Nov 02, 2016 08:17am

We need to implement strict safety measures in the ship breaking yards, otherwise this Industry will be doomed. Workers should be trained in their job and understand the dangers lurking around and how to carry out their jobs safely. This is one area where the local Authorities, may please spare this Industry and keep the corruption out. Otherwise there will be no ships coming to Gadani.

white noise Nov 02, 2016 08:18am

My guess is, its Methane mostly , the gases build up in chambers and if you don't have any detectors or venting procedures in place, which I don't think there in Pakistan, a spark can ignite the whole ship.

Being someone from the HSEQ background, the word HSEQ does not exist in our routine works, therefore no risk assessment is done, no risk matrix is issued nor it can be translated to laborers who can hardly write their names, and its amazing they keep working on such dangerous task. Then there is a matter of cheap labor as well, I mean Bangladesh is another example of such, infact the largest for such operations. Human life is cheap when it comes to such labor intensive jobs, clothing is another one & this is what you get by being a third world country, only if the corrupt leaders could stop looting and start lifting the quality of life in such countries.

Feroz Nov 02, 2016 12:53pm

Very sad that poor workers, mostly daily wage earners have lost their lives. Contempt for safety measures carries a heavy price. My sincere condolences to the families of the victims.

Ali Akhtar Baluch Nov 02, 2016 01:29pm

@Tariq Rashid

The reason for the disaster is quite simple, which makes the casualty figure all that poignant as the catastrophe was totally avoidable.

Prima facie, the tanker was just not ready for commencement of its breaking work. The procedure being observed at every ship breaking facility is that a designated office carries out an inspection of the vessel to ensure that all actions as per a check list have been carried out and then issues NOC for the breaking work to begin . In this unfortunate incident, either the NOC was issued without proper inspection or the breaking work was started without the NOC.

There has a severe dereliction of duty by those whose responsibility it was to ensure that no violation of the laid down procedure took place.

Ali Akhtar Baluch Nov 02, 2016 01:38pm

@white noise

There is an elaborate safety procedure like ensuring that no inflammable material or gas remains on or within the vessel to be broken down as the process involves use of cutting torches using oxy-acetylene or other such highly inflammable gases. Unfortunate incidents like this one happen only when proper precautionary measures are not taken before start of the ship breaking work.

Sarfaraz Nov 02, 2016 05:57pm

@Salman (Kashmir, INdia. Mr .you don't aware the skill of qadani .

Omar Nov 03, 2016 09:57am

@Arshad Why we only blame the departments and officials what about those who make profits out this business. IT clearly shows how sincere they are with the business that gives them bread butter and the cream.