LAHORE: Seven labourers working on the Orange Line project were killed and another four injured after a huge wall of an under-construction oil factory collapsed during rain early on Tuesday near Quaid-i-Azam Interchange, Dera Gujran.
The workers were asleep in tents at camp office of train project (package-1) contractor when the wall fell on them.
“Our three workers died on the spot and four breathed their last at Services Hospital. Another four suffered injuries and are being treated,” said Muhammad Bakhsh, security and safety in-charge of Habib Constructions, told Dawn.
“We were asleep in a nearby camp. All of a sudden a blast-like noise awakened us and we rushed outside to see what happened. And we saw many of our companions crying for help under the debris,” Muhammad Abbas, a worker, told this reporter.
He said since labourers and the company’s security and safety staff gathered there, all started efforts to rescue the trapped workers.
“We continued with rescue efforts for an hour as no one from Rescue 1122 and police reached the spot. After an hour, rescuers recovered bodies and the injured and shifted them to hospital,” he said.
Orange Line labourers were asleep in tents near under-construction oil factory
According to camp administration, the deceased have been identified as Irfan and Maqbool of Liaquatpur (Rahim Yar Khan), Usman of Mianwali, Nadeem, Nadir Husain, Rashid and Zulfiqar of Jalalpur Pirwala tehsil (Multan).
“I do not know the names of the injured,” Bakhsh said.
However, according to labourer Abbas, the injured included Mohsin, Sarfraz and Razaq. All were young within the age bracket of 20 to 25 years and relatives, he said.
Mr Bakhsh said the chief executive officer had announced Tuesday as day off in mourning.
Abbas said: “We have decided not to go for work for three days.”
Asked as to why he or other senior officials opted for setting up some workers’ camps along the under-construction wall, Bakhsh said the camps were not so close to the wall. Since the height of the wall was 15 to 18 feet, it fell on the camps. Labourers Mushtaq, Zaman, Ikram and Imran termed setting up camps along the wall a criminal negligence.
On the other hand, the owner of the oil mills and his staff reportedly disappeared after the incident.
“They (mill owner, contractor, labourers) were present till Monday evening, but didn’t come in the morning (Tuesday). We have also learnt that the land was under illegal occupation of owner Haji Barkat. The building map was not approved as well,” Talib, another official of the Habib Constructions, said.
Talib said the company would also announce some compensation package for victims’ families.
Meanwhile, the workers demanded adequate safety measures and facilities for them while performing hazardous jobs and taking rest at camp offices.
Talking to Dawn, Punjab emergency services department rejected claim of labourers about the late response of the Rescue 1122.
“We received a call at 3:25am. And the station (Mughalpura) from where our ambulances moved to the site is situated about 13 km. Therefore, our vehicles reached the spot within 20-21 minutes. The teams rescued all the injured,” a department spokesperson said.
She said the reason behind the delay was the zero visibility due to the thunderstorm.
This reporter tried to contact the LDA chief engineer regarding alleged negligence on the part of the LDA and contractors to ensure safety of workers, but he was not available.
Published in Dawn, May 25th, 2016