Toll from Pakistan factory collapse rises to 17 dead

LAHORE, Pakistan Tue Feb 7, 2012 6:44am EST

Rescue workers and residents retrieve an injured young boy from the rubble of a three-story factory which was levelled by a gas explosion in Lahore February 6, 2012.   REUTERS/Mohsin Raza

Rescue workers and residents retrieve an injured young boy from the rubble of a three-story factory which was levelled by a gas explosion in Lahore February 6, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Mohsin Raza

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LAHORE, Pakistan (Reuters) - The death toll from the collapse of a three-storey factory in the Pakistani city of Lahore rose to 17 Tuesday as rescue workers continued to search for survivors amidst the rubble, an emergency official said.

A gas explosion Monday caused the building to collapse, trapping dozens of laborers, mostly boys aged 14-23, inside.

"We just recovered another body. The total death toll is 17 and we have rescued 13 people," Karamat Ali, a spokesman for the government Rescue 1122 emergency service, told Reuters.

"We're being able to communicate with six or seven people who are trapped. We're still trying, the operation is still underway."

A factory attendant had told rescue teams there were 62 people inside the factory, which produced veterinary medical products, when the blast occurred, Ali said.

Emergency workers were continuing to shift rubble by hand although some machinery was now also being used at the site in the rescue operation, Ali said.

The incident is likely to raise fresh questions about Pakistan's industrial safety. Building and zoning regulations are weak and often not enforced, critics say.

Governance in Pakistan is often described as too corrupt and inept to tackle an array of problems, from struggling industries to Taliban insurgents who carry out suicide bombings across the South Asian nation.

(Reporting by Mubasher Bukhari; Writing by Serena Chaudhry; Editing by Chris Allbritton and Ed Lane)

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