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KARACHI: An oil tanker caught fire at the Gadani ship-breaking yard on Monday afternoon but no loss of life was reported as all workers were rescued, according to officials from labour organisations.

The incident occurred at 12pm, and the fire was brought under control after hectic efforts lasting one hour. Around eight workers were rescued.

Gadani Ship-breaking Workers Union president Bashir Mehmoodani told Dawn that a tanker parked at plot number 116, reportedly belonging to a man named Arif Dar, had a no objection certificate for cleaning and not for its dismantling. Mr Mehmoodani believes the incident occurred as dismantling work was being done without cleaning the oil tanker first, which was “illegal”.

The union leader said that police and district administration officials had visited the scene of the incident and promised they would take action after a probe into the incident.

“Around 31 labourers died in two incidents in November 2016 when tankers caught fire during dismantling without cleaning its oil tanks,” said another trade union leader, Nasir Mansoor.

“Following those tragic incidents, the authorities had promised certain actions but none have been taken so far,” said Mr Mehmoodani.

He recalled that six months ago the commissioner of Kalat had promised to provide two fire tenders to meet any eventuality but it had not been fulfilled. Similarly, around eight months ago, the Chief Justice of the Balochistan High Court had laid the foundation stone to establish a hospital in Gadani for the workers — it was supposed to be completed in a year but so far nothing has been done.

He pointed out that the oil tanker owners, workers and officials were supposed to meet after a gap of every three months but six months have gone by and no meeting has taken place.

Mr Mansoor, who is president of the National Trade Union Federation, visited the site and told Dawn that imposing a ban on dismantling oil tankers at the yard was not a solution.

He revealed that India had recently promulgated a law for safety and health of the workers where estimated 70,000 people work in the ship-breaking industry.

Published in Dawn, July 17th, 2018