KARACHI, Sept 13: Desperate family members of still missing workers were looking for their loved ones in the fire-struck garment factory in Baldia Town on Thursday afternoon, when search for more bodies had almost been abandoned.
It was the third day of the fire, which had erupted in the industrial unit on Tuesday at around 7pm when the three-storey-plus-basement factory was packed with 800 to 1,000 garment workers busy in their respective tasks on jeans being prepared for export.
Among the grief-stricken people were Rafiqunnissa and her family, residents of Baldia Town. The family members, all females, were sitting on a pavement outside the Baldia factory. They were holding photographs of four young women who and an aunt of theirs were believed to be burnt to death in the factory inferno.
“They all were employees of the factory and their male relative Ijaz had managed to get them at one place,” said one of the grieving women, adding that Ijaz had been in contact with the family even after the fire had broken out.
Another crying member of the family said the last time the deceased could be contacted on telephone by them was amid loud cries and noises. “We’re running hither and thither; have visited all major hospitals and the Edhi morgue, but have failed to find the bodies of our Zoya, Soni, Samra, Rubab, Ijaz and others,” she said. “Please allow us to look for them in the basement; they may be in it,” said another member of the family.
Standing at a distance from the family, an employee of the city’s fire brigade, Mohammad Ijazuddin, said that during his 34 years of service he had never seen such a big fire. “I’ve been here since Tuesday night and have witnessed some 70 bodies taken out from the 2nd floor, some of them tangled with one another,” he said.
An aged volunteer from the neighbourhood, separating the badly tangled electric wires with the help of a young man, said he was arranging for light in the basement, which was being cleared of water by firefighters.
At around 1pm, a social worker said he had heard of only one body having been recovered since morning and that he believed no more bodies were left in the basement. “Had there been any, they would be floating now on the leftover water,” he said.
A senior worker who had just come out of the basement, however, said he had seen body parts floating on the water and there might be more bodies under the heaps of garments and bundles of cloth.
The fire had not been extinguished till 1pm, when workers doing the clear-up exercise on the second floor suddenly called for water hoses to be brought over to put out a fresh fire that had broken out in stitched jeans.