Rescue work continued on Thursday (5 November) to pull out survivors trapped in the rubble of a collapsed Pakistani factory. Rescuers said they feared the death toll of 20 could rise, in the latest tragedy to spotlight poor safety standards in south Asia.
Nearly 100 survivors have been pulled from the wreckage of the shopping bag-making factory, 12 miles south of the city of Lahore, but rescuers say scores of workers had been crowded into the building's basement.
Rescue officials on Wednesday (4 November) said 150 people were believed to have been in the building when it collapsed. But rescuers had to move slowly, government officials said, to avoid further injuries to those still trapped. No part of the four-storey building remained standing, and hundreds of rescue workers were carefully picking through piles of concrete and bricks to find survivors.
"Right now we are just trying to make an entry into the building. We have been able to access some of the victims there. Probably, probably it may take six to eight more hours to make sure that everything is clear, and there's no survivor in the building," said a police officer.
Injured survivors said the factory's owner, who was adding a third floor, had ignored advice from his contractor and pleas from his workers to stop construction after cracks in the walls following a powerful earthquake last week. The owner of the factory was among the dead, said government official Muhammed Usman. Representatives of the factory management could not immediately be reached for comment.
Pakistan's construction sector is plagued by poor oversight and developers frequently flout building codes. In September 2012, 289 people burned to death in a fire at a garment factory in the southern city of Karachi. On the same day, a fire at a shoe factory in Lahore killed 25.