Rescue work is in progress at a burnt garment factory inKarachi on Wednesday, September 12, 2012. The death toll in the devastating garment factoryfire in Baldia Town has reached 289, raising fresh concerns about workplace safety, officials
said. — Photo by PPI

KARACHI: The enormity of the Karachi garment factory inferno that consumed at least 258 workers, including a number of women, on Tuesday evening unfolded on Wednesday morning, when firefighters tore down an outer wall of the three-storey-plus basement building to take out the bodies, mostly charred beyond recognition.

On Tuesday evening TV channels and news agencies had broken the news with a few deaths and counted fewer than 30 people killed in the blaze till late in the night. However, on Wednesday morning charred bodies came pouring into hospital mortuaries and the reported figure soared to at least 258 deaths, making it the worst such tragedy of the country.

More than 500 people, including 50 women, in the evening shift of the garment factory, named Ali Enterprises, were trapped inside the building when the fire erupted at around 6.30pm. The cause of the fire could not be determined.

Viewers saw in horror TV footages showing the blaze with people jumping from the factory building in their desperate attempt to escape the leaping flames. Survivors narrating their nightmarish experience to the media claimed that the exits were locked else the casualty toll would not have been so enormous.

Heart-rending scenes were witnessed at hospitals and neighbourhoods where bodies of victims arrived.

Mortuaries of the major hospitals where the bodies were taken were crowded as grief-stricken relatives sought to recognise their loved ones among the remains mostly charred beyond recognition.

The Sindh High Court chief justice has sought a report from the law-enforcement agencies and civic bodies on the tragedy and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement has announced a three-day mourning.

The Sindh government has also announced compensation for the dead and set up a commission to investigate the incident.