Two horrific factory fires in Pakistan have claimed the lives of almost 200 workers, with the death toll rising by the hour. The most ferocious blaze broke out in at a clothes factory in Karachi, the second at a shoe manufacturer in Lahore. A senior government official in Karachi says it's one of the worst industrial accidents in Pakistan's 65-year history.
Police are investigating the possibility that diesel or petrol-powered generators caught fire. Many factories use them to keep their operations going, because the government's inability to provide reliable power supplies.
The deadlier of the two fires swept through this building in Karachi. A Pakistani official told the AP news agency 166 people have died, although there are some reports that could be around 191. Many of the workers who died were trapped in the basement because the building apparently had few emergency exits, most of which were locked. They were engulfed in smoke and suffocated. There were iron bars on the windows and there seemed to be little evidence of any basic safety measures like alarms or sprinklers inside.
While fire-fighters tackled the blaze, emergency crews battled to ferry scores of people for treatment in the melee. Local hospitals were teeming with relatives and friends trying to get news of loved ones who they thought might have been killed or injured.
As the building is being damped down and the search for any remaining bodies continues the high death toll will raise big questions for the Pakistani government about the state of their commercial health and safety policies. Lahore and Karachi are the country's two largest business districts. Police have been raiding parts of Karachi to search for the factory owners. Small comfort for those having to line up and identity people they loved and lost in this terrifying tragedy.