At least 16 people died after a fire broke out at a factory in Karachi's Mehran Town on Friday, police and rescue officials said.
Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) Additional Police Surgeon Dr Summaiya Syed said that 16 bodies had been brought to the hospital so far, adding that more were expected.
She said 12 of the bodies had been identified and were taken away by relatives, while four could not be identified immediately. All of the deceased were aged between 18 and 38, she added.
Speaking to Dawn.com, Korangi SSP Shah Jehan said that police had been informed that there were 25 people still trapped in the building, and feared that they may have died.
According to a spokesman for the Pakistan Rangers (Sindh), the area had been cordoned off and Rangers personnel were engaged in relief efforts with rescue teams.
The spokesperson said that the fire had occurred at a chemical factory in Mehran Town, adding that the blaze was now under control and rescue efforts were under way.
According to police officials, an Edhi volunteer, Saddam, 30, also sustained injuries while trying to extinguish the fire. Saddam, along with three other injured people, was taken to JPMC.
During a visit to the factory, Karachi Commissioner Navid Shaikh directed rescue workers to speed up their efforts and try their best to save any lives.
He said the fire had been controlled and the cooling process was now under way.
A Chipa volunteer, who brought the bodies to the hospital, said the factory was built on 200 square yards and had only one exit.
Workers died due to inhalation of smoke
Emotional scenes were witnessed outside the mortuary of the JPMC where the bodies were being brought.
One grief-stricken survivor, Abdul Rehman, told Dawn.com that his brother Farhan died in the incident. He said he also worked in the same factory and was on the ground floor when the fire broke out around 9:15am.
He said the blaze erupted due to a short circuit under the staircase where luggage, briefcases and bags were kept. As the fire engulfed the staircase, his brother and other co-workers who were on the first floor of the building could not descend and were trapped there, he added.
JPMC Additional Police Surgeon Dr Summaiya Syed said that post-mortem examination of the 16 bodies was carried out by doctors which revealed that all of them died due to inhalation of smoke though some of them were "partly burnt but with superficial wounds".
The cause of death was "cardio-respiratory failure secondary to asphyxia caused by inhalation of smoke and soot particles from fire leading to suffocation and subsequent death," added Dr Syed.
Sindh CM takes notice, seeks report on incident
Meanwhile, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah took notice of the incident and directed the Karachi commissioner and the labour department to furnish a report. "How did the incident occur and what safety precautions were being taken?" he questioned.
He also instructed officials to provide the best possible medical treatment to the injured and support to the families of the deceased.
Speaking to the media, Karachi Administrator Murtaza Wahab said that the fire department was alerted of the blaze at 10:09am and departed a minute later. All measures were taken, but the difficulty came because there was probably no emergency exit, he said.
He confirmed that the fire had been extinguished and cooling efforts were under way, adding that 21 people had been working on the factory's first floor. He confirmed 10 casualties and cited suffocation as the cause of death.
He said that police and the fire department were investigating the incident, adding that the findings would be shared with the media.