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Fire Fighters struggling to extinguish fire erupted in shoe sole making factory located on Band Road near Gulshan-e-Ravi, Lahore. — Photo by INP

LAHORE: Twenty-one people burned to death and 14 others suffered multiple injuries after a fire broke out in a shoe-manufacturing unit in Shafeeqabad, on Bund Road, here on Tuesday.

The fire, which erupted at around 3:30pm during power outage, also burnt a huge quantity of shoe manufacturing material and plastic shoes, witnesses and rescuers said.

Most of the dead, between 14 and 30 years of age, were labourers from different parts of Punjab who were trapped inside the 10-marla factory because there was only one entry-exit point.

Huge flames triggered panic in the locality.

Presence of people in large numbers on the busy road hampered fire-fighting and rescue activities. Most of them either gathered outside the double-storey factory or rooftops of nearby buildings.

Traffic flow from Motorway II to Saggian bridge remained suspended for a few hours because of the presence of fire-fighting vehicles, ambulances, vehicles of TV channels and onlookers.

Emotional scenes were witnessed at hospitals as wailing men and women searched for their loved ones in the hope of finding them alive.

Rescue 1122 District Officer Dr Ahmad Raza told Dawn that as many as 21 labourers were killed and 14 others injured in the fire.

He said short-circuiting in a portion of the building sparked fire and unconfirmed reports linked the blaze to a power generator.

Mr Raza said the blaze spread quickly because of the presence of an organic substance which was stored in a huge quantity without safety measures.

He said a majority of casualties took place because of smoke annihilation and absence of an emergency exit.

The official said fire-fighters battled for about four hours to put out the flames.

Ambulances of Rescue 1122, Edhi Foundation and other private organisations took the dead and injured to Mayo and Mian Munshi hospitals.

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has constituted a committee, headed by the chairman of the Chief Minister’s Inspection Team, to investigate the incident.

Deputy Inspector General of Police (Operations) Rai Mohammad Tahir said an initial report released by the doctors suggested that a majority of people died of burns and suffocation. He said factory owner Rajab Ali, who also died in the fire, had a force of around 35 labourers and the business was at its peak at the time of the fire.

He said the fire apparently erupted following sparks in a generator and spread quickly because of combustible material like plastic glue and other chemicals. He said the victims were evacuated by breaking front and back portions of the building.

The DIG said police would wait for an inquiry report before any legal action because the factory owner also lost his life in the incident.

He said faces of all burnt victims were recognisable and bodies were handed over to families.

Most of the dead belonged to districts of Narowal and Okara. One of the injured, who identified himself as Sohail at the hospital, said he tried to save his relative, suffered light burns and ran towards the exit. He said the fire engulfed other people in no time.

“I came out of my house and saw sparks in main electricity wires outside the factory and huge flames inside the building. The blaze was so intense that the locals had no option but to call emergency services,” Syed Shafeeq Shah, who owns an adjacent house and is an accountant by profession, said.

He said rescue services arrived within 20 minutes.

Shah told Dawn that Rajab Ali had acquired the affected building on rent about one and half years ago. A variety of shoes were made at the factory.

He said up to 150 labourers worked in the factory in shifts and approximately 30 of them were present in the building when the fire erupted.

Shah said local youths smashed the back wall of the factory and pulled out around 20 victims.

“Locals and rescuers found it difficult to evacuate the victims because of a narrow exit.”

Comments (6) Closed

Starr Sep 12, 2012 05:46am
Owners of these factories should be arrested for violating municipal building codes. Families of deceased should be compensated by the owners of these factories and not by the government of Pakistan.
immi_1 Sep 12, 2012 05:57am
Safety and security measures to avoid such incidents are neither being taken by owners of the factories nor being enforced by law enforcement agencies. Our Governement must take concrete steps to ensure safety of the people of Pakistan & strictly regulate the implementation of preventive controls from the beginning instead of constituting committees for investigations after such mass mishaps. Our electricity cables should also be underground which cause a lot of problems.
z@hid Sep 12, 2012 07:19am
Do these factories work outside of the limits of authorities' radius which are responsible for implementing the building safety codes and workers safety ?????????
Dilawer Sep 12, 2012 04:07am
It is a shame to see this kind of fire fighting. If you are only half trained then you can see the these fire fighter are stoking the flames the way they are adding water to the fire. My heart goes out to the affected families.
hamza82 Sep 12, 2012 06:58am
Thanks to load shedding , Almost every industry , office and many homes have 20 Liters of fuel in Generator. Do people store fuel in safety containers or just empty bottle of soft drinks.
Hamad Sep 12, 2012 11:30am
Poor people die in floods or Fire. It was better if 100 people gave there live while marching against Sindh Govt and Punjab GOVT and may find death. There death will become part of history. But to get death in floods or factory fire have no pressure to Sindh GOVT. WE have to do now other wise next year more 100s people may die in floods. When injustices become Law Resistance become a duty There is something about poverty that smells like death. There was never a war on poverty. Maybe there was a skirmish on poverty, lets get our rights. Otherwise poor people have to die and elite has to order inquires to get TA/DA or Punjab officiels has to get allowance to visit the flood effected areas on Helicopter in remote Punjab....