A relative of a garment factory worker argues with rescuers outside the factory in Karachi on Sept 12, 2012. — Photo by AFP

KARACHI, Jan 6: Long wait of the ill-fated families of Baldia Town garment factory victims who went ‘missing’ after an inferno burnt down the factory on Sept 11, 2012 has not yet ended and their patience is wearing thin by each passing day.

After waiting for more than a month they were told the forensic laboratory in Islamabad to which police had sent fresh samples of 33 unidentified bodies for DNA matching had not yet sent the results. The charred bodies have been kept at the Edhi morgue in Sohrab Goth.

The investigator of the case claimed to have sent the samples on Dec 1 under the Sindh High Court orders and expected to receive results within two weeks, but so far the lab has sent matches of only seven victims.

“We have received results of only seven DNA matches,” said Sub-Inspector Jehanzaib of the SITE-B police station, investigation officer of the Ali Enterprises inferno that killed more than 250 people.

“We keep sending reminders to the lab to dispatch the rest of the results as soon as possible. We can’t give any timeframe until we get the results. We are trying to convey the families’ concerns to the lab officials,” he said.

The Sindh High Court ordered the investigation officer to take fresh samples of 33 unidentified bodies and family members after the court was informed during the hearing of two petitions about the factory fire that only 16 bodies had been identified in the earlier DNA test.

Medico-legal teams headed by police surgeon Dr Jalil Qadir collected fresh samples on Nov 30 and handed them over to police, lifting hopes of the ‘missing’ workers’ families they would now be able to learn about the fate of their loved ones after almost four months.

The delay in the bodies’ identification process has also been worrisome for the Edhi Foundation. It had asked the authorities concerned to allow it to bury the remains but had to put its plans on hold after fresh court ruling.

“The fresh tests, too, have not come to any conclusion,” said Anwar Kazmi, administrator of the Edhi Foundation. “We’ve postponed our plans to bury the bodies in our graveyard in Mowach Goth under the Sindh High Court directives. But we fail to comprehend what has taken the lab so long,” he said.

He said it was a serious challenge for the charity to look after the badly charred bodies at the morgue for so long a period.

The authorities had declared a total of 259 deaths in the fire that engulfed the Baldia garment factory on Sept 11, 2012. It took more than 18 hours to put off the fire. Over 50 firefighters took part in the operation and used almost all available machines and equipment.

The medical professionals and experts who had twice collected samples of unidentified bodies expressed surprise over so much delay in the identification process.

“In the first such exercise, the samples were collected from more than 70 unidentified bodies and the number of claimants was also higher. And the number of bodies was only 33 yet it has taken the lab more than enough time to come up with results,” said police surgeon Dr Jalil Qadir.