Probe into Mehran Town factory inferno begins as owners booked for manslaughter

Published August 29, 2021
A Rangers official stands guard, after a fire broke out at a multi-storey chemical factory, in Karachi, on Friday.— Reuters/File
A Rangers official stands guard, after a fire broke out at a multi-storey chemical factory, in Karachi, on Friday.— Reuters/File

KARACHI: Police on Saturday launched an investigation into the death of 16 workers in a factory fire in Korangi’s Mehran Town locality on Friday morning.

The Sindh government had announced Rs1 million as compensation for heirs of each victim.

Also, Karachi Administrator and Sindh government spokesperson Murtaza Wahab sought a list of all residential plots being used for commercial or industrial purposes in Mehran Town.

A report prepared by the Korangi deputy commissioner revealed that the workers suffocated to death because of “unavailability of emergency exit and improper building exposure”.

No arrest has so far been made; Sindh govt announces Rs1m compensation for heir of each victim

Building, factory owners booked for manslaughter

Landhi SP Shah Nawaz Chachar said the police registered an FIR against building owner Faisal, owner of the B.M luggage factory Ali, manager Imran Zaidi, supervisors Zafar and Rehan and watchman Syed Zarin.

He said that the case was registered under Sections 322 (manslaughter) and 34 (common intention) of the Pakistan Penal Code on behalf of the state through a police officer.

He said that so far 16 workers died in the incident.

The SP conceded that despite registration of the case no one had so far been arrested.

He said that the forensic unit visited the scene to obtain evidence.

According to the FIR, the deaths took place on the upper portion of the building which lacked any emergency exit.

Witnesses and area people informed the police that they asked the watchman to unlock the door of the second floor of the building to save lives.

“The factory building has been constructed in a manner that no one can exit in case of emergency while no emergency alarm system was installed in it,” according to the FIR.

Meanwhile, Additional Police Surgeon of the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre Summaiya Syed said that three injured persons were discharged after initial treatment, while a fourth one was admitted for further treatment.

No emergency exit

The DC-Korangi has submitted a report about the factory fire incident to the Karachi commissioner stating that as per “preliminary report and statement ... the workers were suffocated to death due to non-availability of emergency exits and improper building exposure”.

The CCTV footage was confiscated by the police for investigation.

A survey of the area has been ordered while the factory has been sealed till further orders.

About the incident, the DC’s report said that at 8am, the labourers working in the B.M. Luggage Industry were “restrained behind the closed upper floor of the said factory” leading to their deaths.

“This was a tragic industrial incident due to fire, where the flames and smoke spread in the adjoining area and created a panic situation,” the report says.

The Sindh government announced Rs1m as compensation for heirs of each victim, said the Karachi administrator. He announced this during a meeting with relatives of the deceased workers at Dhobi Ghat in Garden.

Inspection of factories ordered

The Karachi administrator held a meeting with the directors general of the Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA), Karachi Development Authority (KDA), Municipal Commissioner Afzal Zaidi, KMC’s chief fire officer and representatives of the labour department.

He directed the KDA chief to provide a list of residential plots that had been converted into commercial purpose in Mehran Town.

He vowed that an inspection would be carried out of such plots that had been converted into commercial ones without the approval of the SBCA.

The inspection committees would be formed under all DCs and ACs, he said, adding that the committees would ensure fire safety measures inside the factories and promised to take action against the industrial units found to be without proper fire safety mechanisms.

Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2021

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