KARACHI: The abrupt death of a young worker on Sunday afternoon at the Gadani ship-breaking yard number 69 further reinforced the lack of safety measures in place despite repeated accidents that have resulted in several casualties.

Dilshaad, 24, was taking a break at cargo ship Snowdon, owned by Aamer Sattar, when the lock of the emergency lifeboat he was sitting in broke. The boat fell resulting in his death on the spot, according to union president Bashir Mehmoodani, who quoted eyewitnesses after meeting them at the site.

Mehmoodani also revealed that the heirs of the victims killed in the Gadani ship-breaking yard explosion were yet to be paid the compensation money, as the 15-day promise of dispensing compensation loomed close.

A meeting held on Dec 23, 2016, between trade union leaders, ship-breaking yard owners and representatives of the Balochistan government came to a decision that the grieving families of the Gadani victims would be paid immediately, and since no particular date was given, the participants decided that the payment was to be made “within the next 15 days”.

The meeting also marked that the heirs of each victim would be given Rs2 million in compensation; the ship-breakers would give Rs1.5 million while the Balochistan labour department was to contribute Rs500,000.

It was decided that the injured would be paid compensation based on medical certificates issued by the “medico-legal officer of the hospital they were treated at”.

However, Mehmoodani said that the families had not been contacted yet.

“We have not heard from the respective authorities since the meeting. So far, families of four of the 27 victims have been compensated. But these families were paid by Balochistan Development Minister Hamid Khan Achakzai. This happened before the meeting on Dec 23, and the sum paid to each of them was Rs1.3 million,” he added.

Other accidents that have been reported at the ship-breaking yard in Gadani include an explosion on Nov 1, in one of the vessels at yard number 54 that resulted in the deaths of 26, according to official figures, and 27, according to labour and trade unionists.

Four of the workers are still considered missing after the incident. Families of Imran, Sherdad, Mohammad Shafiq and Mohammad Hanif approached the National Trade Union Federation soon after the incident as they were unable to find the bodies at the mortuaries.

An accident was also reported on Dec 26 on yard number 60, where the dismantling of a ship was under way. NTUF representatives spoke to the workers who said that a container, which had not been emptied of oil, caught fire during a gas welding job. About 100 workers were on board at the time the container caught fire. No casualties were reported as the workers disembarked from the ship soon enough. It was also reported that work was resumed without any prior notice.

Published in Dawn, January 9th, 2017

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