KARACHI: “One life and two shipments gone, burnt!” said a boiler operator at J.B. Industries in SITE area while speaking to Dawn about the fire that broke out in the top-floor warehouse of the garment factory on Tuesday morning.

For a while as the firefighters tried putting out the blaze, there was a big confusion as to who had died in the fire. Some said it was the guard, others believed it was his friend resting in his quarters.

“I don’t know the guard personally, as there is no interaction between the various departments of the factory. We also enter through separate gates but we heard that there was an overweight elderly man and a younger more agile one in the quarters at that time. Both were tired and asleep when the fire broke out. Then realising what had happened, they must have tried to get out. The agile one escaped leaving behind the other who suffocated,” said the boiler operator.

Asked why didn’t the young man help the other one, the boiler operator, who declined to give his name, shrugged and said: “It’s human nature to save oneself at such a time. He must have thought that the other would also be able to make a getaway like him, which sadly didn’t happen.”

Another factory employee, sitting under a little tree outside and watching the firefighters wrapping up their equipment after successfully putting out the fire, pointed to the warehouse on the top floor. “The walls had to be broken down by the firefighters to get the smoke out. Its shuttering plates above the walls were bluish hue but have now turned grey or black from the smoke. Most of us were lucky to have escaped with our lives though our [factory] owners will have to bear monetary losses,” he said.

“Two entire shipments of double-knit shirts that were supposed to be loaded in two containers today were burnt to ashes,” he said.

It was not clear as to how the fire started. “It was still pretty early when it happened. We were already here and working. The moment we smelt smoke we ran downstairs through the exit points and back stairs. We don’t know what started it,” said another worker before excusing himself to help with cleaning the premises.

A police constable said he believed it was a short circuit on the top floor. “A wire broke, too, and the sparks started a fire when that wire fell on top of the garments,” he said. But when it was pointed out to him that there were no electricity wires or poles at that height, he said that perhaps there was a short circuit in the internal wiring.

The owner of the business, Jawed Bilwani, who also happens to be president of the SITE Association of Industry, told Dawn that they were still trying to determine as to what started the fire. About the casualty, he said their guard had a guest who suffocated. “And he was in the guardroom upstairs while our guard was downstairs. It is unfortunate that one person died, because we have several fire exits and a sprinkler system in place in the building. We also have our own fire tender,” he said.

Asked about the monetary loss they suffered, Mr Bilwani confirmed to Dawn that two shipments were burnt. “Yes, garments for two containers were lost but we send out two to four such shipments every week. What is more sad is the life lost,” he concluded.

Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2015

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