Factory fires that broke out in two major cities in Pakistan killed 128 people and injured dozens more, including some who had to break through barred windows and leap to the ground to escape the flames, officials and survivors said yesterday.
Workers recounted how their colleagues were trapped behind blocked exits, and firefighters said that one reason why the blazes were so deadly is that the buildings, a shoe factory in the eastern city of Lahore and a garment factory in the southern port of Karachi, lacked clear escape routes.
Such safety issues are common throughout Pakistan, where buildings also lack emergency equipment like alarms and sprinklers and municipal rules are rarely enforced.
The most deadly blaze came in Karachi, the country's economic heart. The head of the emergency department at the Civil Hospital in Karachi, Tariq Kamal Ayubi, said 60 bodies had been taken to the hospital so far. Some were so charred that it was impossible to tell if they were male or female, he said.
Pakistani television showed a video of the five-storey factory with flames leaping from top-floor windows and smoke billowing into the night sky. Firefighters could be seen pounding on the metal grates covering some of the windows and pulling out smoke-covered bodies.
Many of the workers were injured when they jumped from the burning building, said another doctor at the hospital, Karar Abbasi.
One was a 27-year-old pregnant woman who had to jump from the second floor and was now suffering complications with her pregnancy, said hospital officials.