17 people were killed and 58 others injured during a series of explosions that occurred during work on an unused oil tanker in the Gadani shipbreaking yard on Tuesday.
“A gas cylinder explosion caused a huge fire in the ship which was being dismantled,” Balochistan home secretary Akbar Harifal told AFP, ruling out a deliberate attack.
According to sources, the vessel had not fully been drained of oil when the dismantling work was undertaken. As a result, an explosion ripped through the oil tanker at about 9am.
Rescue officials said they have recovered 17 bodies so far, while government officials confirmed death of 16 people.
"We have a confirmed reports of at least 16 people dead at the shipyard," said Deputy Commissioner Lasbela Zulfiqar Ali Shah.
The Deputy superintendent police Hub confirmed the death toll to DawnNews and added that workers said over 100 people were working on the ship at the time.
The whereabouts of at least 30 other workers remain unknown. Some workers remain trapped inside the ship, whereas others who were able to exit the ship from above threw themselves into the sea, DawnNews reported.
Balochistan Chief Minister Sanaullah Zehri has instructed the district administration to speed up efforts for injured workers.
The Provincial Disaster Management Authority and the National Disaster Management Authority are conducting a joint rescue operation.
Rescue workers are limited in the area, DawnNews reported, adding that only a single fire engine present at the scene has been unsuccessful in putting out the fire.
Industrial accidents are common in Pakistan, with workplaces often forgoing basic safety measures and equipment in the absence of legislation to protect labourers.
A devastating fire at a textile factory in Karachi killed 255 people in 2012.