Police launch probe into New Karachi ice factory explosion as death toll rises to 10

Published December 23, 2020
Law enforcers and rescuers at the site of the explosion on Tuesday evening.—INP/File
Law enforcers and rescuers at the site of the explosion on Tuesday evening.—INP/File

Police on Wednesday launched a probe to ascertain the exact causes of an explosion in an ice factory in New Karachi Industrial Area on Tuesday evening. The death toll from the incident rose to 10 after two more fatalities were confirmed by officials.

The death toll is feared to rise further as the condition of three more victims among the 18 hospitalised injured was stated to be serious, while officials apprehended that some people might still be under the debris.

On Tuesday, at least eight people were killed and 30 others injured when, reportedly, the boiler of the factory exploded, destroying the infrastructure and power supply system of the densely populated neighbourhood.

The powerful blast destroyed the ground-plus-one factory structure and badly damaged two other neighbouring industrial units while shattering the windowpanes of nearby houses.

A police team led by West DIG Asim Qaimkhani and comprising bomb experts on Wednesday visited the site near Saba Cinema where they met with representatives of the local traders’ body.

“They exchanged views with the Bomb Disposal Squad and other experts to determine the causes of the explosion in the factory,” a brief statement issued by the police spokesperson said.

A BDS expert who wished not to be named said the nature of the explosion was still not known. However, they said that experts had collected evidence from the spot and sent it to a laboratory at the University of Karachi. Besides, the expert said they could not thoroughly check the place on Wednesday as a lot of debris was still lying there which might be removed on Thursday, paving the way for experts to examine it to get any clues about the explosion's nature.

An official of New Karachi Industrial Area said the explosion was not caused by a boiler or gas leakage. He suggested that chemicals kept at the factory in drums might have triggered the explosion. The official said as per their report, three small factories were destroyed in the blast. So far, 10 people have died and 18 others have been hospitalised with injuries.

Earlier, Gulberg SP Azhar Khan Mughal told reporters that the incident might have been the result of a "gas explosion", however, he said its exact cause would be determined based on the findings of the BDS and technical teams' examination.

SP Mughal said a case would be registered in light of findings of the technical team.

He said the debris was being removed with the help of heavy machinery, adding that the factory owner had not made any contact with police so far. The incident was apparently caused due to "criminal negligence" and the case will be registered against the factory management, SP Mughal said.

The municipal commissioner of Central district, Sumera Husain, told media that the rescue operation had continued through Tuesday night and one more body was retrieved on Wednesday morning.

Husain revealed that when they reached the incident site, they could smell ammonia gases, however, she too stressed that the exact cause of the explosion was being determined.

The rescue operation is still going on and teams of the provincial disaster management authority have joined the efforts. Husain suggested that some more bodies might still be buried under the debris.

A representative of the traders’ body, Mohammed Farooq, told reporters there was no boiler inside the factory. “Compressor might be there but boiler has no function inside the ice factory,” he said.

The trader claimed that the compressor was in good condition, adding gas leakage might have caused the blast.

Officials said the industrial unit was meant for manufacturing ice but the owner had also allegedly built a ‘cold storage’ there where juices of fruits such as mangoes, oranges and apples were kept. They said the factory was around 20 years old whose owner reportedly lives abroad.

Police on Wednesday identified some of the deceased victims as Mubashir, Mohsin, Abdul Waheed, Fazal Kareem, Naeem, Sunny, Mohammed Ramzan, Yusuf and Fayaz.

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