LAHORE: At least 18 people were killed and over 70 injured on Wednesday evening when a four-storey factory collapsed in the Sundar industrial area.
District Coordination Officer retired Capt Mohammad Usman told reporters that the death toll might rise because over 250 factory workers, including children and women, were feared trapped under the debris.
A spokesman for the Rescue 1122 told Dawn that polythene bags were manufactured in the factory, Rajpoot Industry.
Factory owner Rana Ashraf is also said to be among the dead.
Most of the injured were in a stable condition.
Initial reports put the number of people killed at 18 and over 70 injured
Witnesses said that the building collapsed when one of its under-construction floors collapsed, bringing down the whole structure.
When the factory collapsed, dozens of employees were in the basement of the building. A majority of the workers were children aged 10 to 16 years, said witness Liaqat Ali, whose two sons were also trapped under the debris. Several families were also residing on the fourth floor. “One of my sons has been rescued while the other is still trapped,” he said, crying helplessly.
Nearly 40 vehicles, including 22 ambulances, eight specialised vehicles with cutter devices of the Rescue 1122 from Lahore, Kasur, Sheikhupura, Gujranwala and Nankana Sahib districts were taking part in the rescue operation.
The army also joined the rescue work after an emergency was declared because of the sensitivity of the situation.
Witnesses said that many workers were seen crying for help, but they could not be rescued due to heavy debris. The body parts of some dead people under the debris created a scare.
“The incident took place at 5pm and we hardly managed to rescue 34 trapped workers from the debris till 9:30pm,” the Rescue 1122 spokesman said.
He said most of the injured had been taken to the Jinnah Hospital, Sharif Medical Complex and the Lahore General Hospital. Five of them were critically injured, he added.
Eyewitness Sibtain Shah said: “We were working on the second floor when a pillar of the building started shaking.”
He said he and his colleagues informed the owner of the factory but he ignored it.
“Then we rushed out seconds before the building caved in with a bang,” he said.
Seven-year-old Shoaib, who was rescued, said that his two cousins were still under the collapsed building.
“As I took shelter under a table, I remained unhurt,” he said.
Rafique, another worker, told Dawn that about 10 labourers were working on the rooftop to build quarters for workers of the factory.
The Jinnah Hospital’s medical superintendent told Dawn that his hospital had received one body and seven injured people.
The DCO said in a late night statement that the rescue work was in progress. The injuries were not life-threatening, he added.
Published in Dawn, November 5th, 2015