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Deadly fires in 2 Pakistani factories

100's die raising concern over workplace safety

LAHORE, Pakistan | September 12, 2012

The death toll in a garment factory fire in Karachi, Pakistan, rose to 289 while a fire at a shoe factory in Lahore killed at least 25 people, officials said.

Officials said the two blazes Tuesday raised questions about workplace safety, Geo TV News reported Wednesday

In the Karachi fire, witnesses said several people were injured when they jumped from windows in the four-story building to escape the flames.

The cause of the fire was not known.

City official Karachi Roshan Ali Skeik told Geo News the factory was in such bad shape, it could collapse at any time.

Rauf Siddiqi, industries and commerce minister for Sindh province, said the owner was being investigated for negligence.

"We have ordered an inquiry into how the fire erupted and why proper emergency exits were not provided at the factory so that the workers could escape," Siddiqi said.

Karachi Fire Chief Ehtesham Salim said the factory was "packed like a box with little room left for ventilation."

"We found people who died of suffocation caused by the highly toxic smoke," Salim said. "They died first and then their bodies were burned by the raging fire."

Most of the fire has been extinguished, but firefighters were dousing hot spots, GEO News reported.

About 2,000 people worked at the garment factory.

In Lahore, officials said at least 25 people, including the factory owner and his son, died after fire broke out in shoe sole-making factory, Indo-Asian News Service reported.

Forty-five people were at the facility when the fire broke out.

Officials said the factory's location on a narrow street made it difficult for firefighters to reach the building to fight the fire and remove the injured and dead, IANS said.

Rescuers had to break through the walls and windows to enter the building, officials said.

The fire is believed to have started when a generator exploded, igniting chemicals and plastic materials, one official said.

2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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