12 Sep 2012

Death toll climbs in Karachi factory fire

10:47 pm on 12 September 2012

At least 236 people are known to have died in a fire at a factory in the Pakistani city of Karachi, according to officials.

The fire broke out in the garment factory on Tuesday evening. Dozens of people jumped from the roof to save their lives but many, including women and children, were trapped. About 450 people work at the factory, the BBC reports.

Some 40 fire-fighting vehicles were needed to tackle the blaze and the building was reportedly still smouldering on Wednesday.

Karachi police chief Iqbal Mahmood said rescue teams were still trying to gain access to parts of the factory and the death toll could rise.

The building had no fire exits or alternative means of escape and most of the dead had been suffocated due to the highly toxic smoke.

One survivor said workers had to rush to get out.

"It was terrible, suddenly the entire floor filled with fire and smoke and the heat was so intense that we rushed towards the windows, broke its steel grille and glass and jumped out," Mohammad Saleem told AFP from hospital.

"I fell on the ground and it was extremely painful, I saw many people jumping out of windows and crying in pain for help."

Bodies have been taken to several different hospitals, and police are still compiling a definitive list of casualties. They said more could be inside the building.

Meanwhile, at least 23 people have been killed in a fire at a shoe factor in Lahore earlier on Tuesday. The blaze was attributed to a faulty electricity generator.

The cause of the Karachi blaze is being investigated, but workers say it also may have been caused by a faulty generator.

Garments factories across Pakistan require their own power sources because of increasingly erratic national grid electricity supplies.