At least 18 labourers killed, scores trapped in Lahore factory collapse

Published November 4, 2015
Rescue officials move a victim through the rubble of the collapsed factory. —AFP
Rescue officials move a victim through the rubble of the collapsed factory. —AFP
Rescue officials move a victim through the rubble of the collapsed factory. —AFP
Rescue officials move a victim through the rubble of the collapsed factory. —AFP
Rescuers search for victims in the rubble of a collapsed factory on the outskirts of Lahore. —AFP
Rescuers search for victims in the rubble of a collapsed factory on the outskirts of Lahore. —AFP

LAHORE: At least 18 labourers were killed and dozens injured when an under construction factory collapsed in Lahore Wednesday evening, rescue and city administration officials said.

More than 70 people were rescued from under the debris till late in the night, DCO Lahore Capt (retd) Mohammad Usman said.

“The rescue workers have so far retrieved 16 dead bodies while at least 40 injured have been taken to hospitals,” Usman, the city's top administration official who was coordinating the response to the disaster, said.

Later, Edhi officials told Dawn they shifted 18 dead bodies to hospitals.

The injured labourers, some of them critical, were shifted to Jinnah Hospital and Sharif Hospital where they received emergency medical treatment.

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif visited the site and said it was possible the building had been damaged after the October 26 earthquake.

“I have heard the earthquake affected the building, but according to labourers the owner continued to build an extension,” he told reporters.

He announced a compensation of Rs0.5 million for the heirs of the labourers who died in this unfortunate accident.

Officials said around 100 people are feared trapped under the debris. —Photo by author
Officials said around 100 people are feared trapped under the debris. —Photo by author
Search and rescue operation

Rescue officials further said around 100 people are feared trapped under the debris, including underage employees, and the death toll is expected to rise.

The factory is located in Lahore's Sundar Industrial Estate and manufactures polythene bags.

Rescue officials faced difficulties during rescue operations, which continued throughout the night. However, the use of heavy machinery was halted until sunrise.

The DCO Lahore said that the actual number of casualties will be ascertained once the rescue operation is completed.

He, however, claimed that all available resources are being utilised to carry out the rescue and relief operation.

Army teams also reached the site and carried out search and rescue operation alongside the city administration teams, the ISPR said.

The military was flying urban search-and-rescue teams to the scene, said a military spokesman in a text message.

“Army engineers have been immediately moved for the rescue operation,” the message said.

Screams for help

Eye witnesses said they could hear screams for help from under the collapsed structure.

A worker, Sibtain Shah, said they were working at the factory when they felt the building’s pillars vibrate.

“We rushed downstairs to inform the factory owner, who after hearing our plea to vacate the building, went inside to check the situation. We however, ran outside to save ourselves,” Shah added.

Moments after we came out the building collapsed, with scores of workers and the factory owner trapped under the debris, he added.

It was reported in some sections of local media that the factory owner, Rana Ashraf, died in the incident and rescue workers have shifted his body to the hospital.

Several labourers told news channels that the building had developed cracks during the quake, but the factory's owner pressed ahead with construction of a fourth storey.

“We told the owner to build additional pillars before beginning the fourth floor but he took no notice of it,” one labourer said.

A labourer, Rafique, while talking to Dawn, said they were busy in construction work on the fourth floor when the building collapsed.

He said more than 150 labourers were working in the factory at the time of the incident.

The factory's fourth storey was currently under construction.

Rescuers search for victims in the rubble of the collapsed factory. —AFP
Rescuers search for victims in the rubble of the collapsed factory. —AFP

The director general Rescue 1122 was also present at the scene and monitored the relief and rescue operation.

The cause of the building collapse has still not been confirmed but it comes over a week after a magnitude-7.5 earthquake hit the northern parts of the country, killing 273 people and damaging nearly 75,000 homes.

In 2013, more than 255 workers were killed when a fire tore through a clothing factory in Karachi, one of the deadliest industrial accidents in Pakistani history.

A judicial probe into the blaze was damning, pointing to a lack of emergency exits, poor safety training for workers, the packing in of machinery and the failure of government inspectors to spot any of these faults.

A murder case was registered against the factory owners, but it has never come to trial.

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