The BALDIA (& Lahore) Fire September 2012 –PART 1 20120912-20120921

02:13:13 local time map of pakistan PAKISTAN

THE KARACHI-BALDIA (& LAHORE) FIRE:

An overview of articles about the fire in Karachi and Lahore. 11 September 2012. In a chronology of time publishing.

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20120912

* At least 73 dead in Karachi factory blaze- fire officer:

20120912
At least 73 people were killed when a blaze engulfed a packed garment factory in Karachi, and dozens of others were hurt as they jumped out of windows to save their lives, officials said on Wednesday.

The evening blaze in the four-story factory in Pakistan’s largest city coincided with another at a shoe plant in Lahore on Tuesday that killed at least 21 people.
“So far we have taken out 73 bodies from the factory and the death toll is likely to rise,” Karachi fire chief Ehtesham Salim told AFP.

“We are now searching in the basement and there are about 35 fire engines taking part in the firefigthing and most of the fire has been extinguished, but there is smouldering in some parts due to plastic and chemicals,” he added.
“This is the biggest fire in terms of deaths in decades,” he added. read more.

* 100 dead in Karachi garment factory fire:

Rescue workers have pulled as many as 100 charred remains from the garment factory which was gutted by a huge blaze in Baldia town area of Karachi on Tuesday, Express News reported.

Fire department officials said that they had managed to control fire in most parts of the factory and were now trying to recover bodies of the dead from the building.
Express News 
correspondent Nadeem Khan said that Metropolitan Commissioner Matanat Ali Khan has said that there were at least 30-35 bodies still inside the stricture.

Khan added that the factory structure, having been exposed to a sweltering blaze for over eight hours, was now in a precarious condition with cracks appearing in its walls. He added that the building had sagged from one side and rescue officials too had warned that the building could collapse at any moment.
Meanwhile, Governor Sindh Ishratul Ebad has announced a day of mourning in the city on Wednesday. read more.

* Karachi factory fire death toll tops 100:

The death toll in a third-degree fire, that erupted at a garments factory in Baldia Town has crossed 100 Wednesday morning while dozens of workers are still trapped inside and the firefighters are trying to tame the blaze, Geo News reported.

The number of the injured, according to Provincial Minister for Health Dr Sagheer, was around 31.
According to rescue sources a large number of workers are still trapped in the burning factory located on Hub River Road. Women and children are also among the dead and injured.
Hospital sources told that more than 71 bodies were brought to the Civil Hospital while more than 31 were brought to the Jinnah Hospital. The MLO of Civil Hospital told that more than 37 victims were identified and handed over to the relatives of the victims, sources told.

All the firefighting force of the metropolis has been called in to fight out the blaze, which engulfed the factory located in Baldia Town no.2 of Karachi.
Snorkels were being used to bring the people down from the roof of the factory, which has now become a ball of fire. Only, the fire at the top-floor has been brought under control.

Dozens of the workers trapped in the factory jumped down to save their lives and the footage of that has been received by Geo News.
read more.
& read more. & read more.
   

* Geo’s factory fire coverage obstructed:

The owners of the factory have attacked Geo News team threatening them with dire consequences for covering the fire that engulfed the factory putting the lives of hundreds at risk, Geo News reported.
According to initial reports the Geo TV’s cameras were also smashed.
Earlier, fire erupted in a garments factory Karachi trapping dozens of workers.
The blaze, which grew to a third-degree fire has yet not been extinghused.
City’s firebrigade teams are trying to put the flames without much success.
to read.

* Devastating fires in factories, 21 burnt alive in Lahore:

Twenty-one people burned to death and 14 others suffered multiple injuries after a fire broke out in a shoe-manufacturing unit in Shafeeqabad, on Bund Road, here on Tuesday.

The fire, which erupted at around 3:30pm during power outage, also burnt a huge quantity of shoe manufacturing material and plastic shoes, witnesses and rescuers said.
Most of the dead, between 14 and 30 years of age, were labourers from different parts of Punjab who were trapped inside the 10-marla factory because there was only one entry-exit point.
Huge flames triggered panic in the locality.

Presence of people in large numbers on the busy road hampered fire-fighting and rescue activities. Most of them either gathered outside the double-storey factory or rooftops of nearby buildings. read more.

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* Death toll of Karachi factory fire rose to 289:

20120912 17h Local Time
The death toll from a garment factory fire in Karachi’s SITE area rose to 289 as more bodies were recovered from the gutted building, the city’s top administration official said Wednesday.

“The death toll is 289. This is not final, search for more bodies continues,” commissioner Karachi Roshan Shaikh told AFP.

Karachi city’s police chief Iqbal Mahmood also said rescue teams were still trying to gain access to parts of the factory, which caught fire late on Tuesday, and the death toll could rise.

“We found dozens of people dead in a large room of the factory’s basement. It was totally burnt and parts of it were smouldering, which we put out before shifting the bodies to hospitals,” Karachi fire chief Ehtesham Salim told AFP.
read more. & read more. & read more. & read more.
     

People gather at the site of the burnt-out Karachi factory. Picture-AP

* Death toll from Karachi factory fire soars:

More than 100 people are now known to have died in a fire at a factory in the Pakistan city of Karachi, officials say

The fire broke out in the garment factory on Tuesday evening. Many other people were injured, including some who jumped from the burning building.
Some 40 firefighting vehicles were needed to tackle the blaze, an official told local media.
A fire earlier in the day at a shoe factory in Lahore killed 23 people.
The Lahore fire was attributed to a faulty electricity generator. Medical officials said some people had died of suffocation while others were burned alive as the fire took hold. read & see more. video.

* Hundreds killed in Karachi factory inferno:

More than 280 people killed in southern city, with many victims caught in basement with no fire exits and locked doors.

Factory fires in two major cities in Pakistan have killed more than 300 people and injured dozens more, including some who had to leap from windows to escape the flames, officials and survivors have said.
The most deadly blaze broke out on Tuesday night in a garment factory in the southern port city of Karachi, where at least 289 bodies have been recovered so far, according to Roshan Ali Sheikh, a senior government official.
At least 25 others were killed hours earlier in a shoe factory in the eastern city of Lahore.
Firefighters continued to battle the blaze in Karachi on Wednesday.

Most of the deaths were caused by suffocation as people caught in the basement were unable to escape when it filled with smoke, said the top firefighter in Karachi, Ehtisham-ud-Din. There were no fire exits, and the doors leading out of the basement were locked, he said.
Such safety issues are common throughout Pakistan, where buildings also lack emergency equipment like alarms and sprinklers and municipal rules are rarely enforced.

Workers on higher floors of the five-story building struggled to make it out of windows that were covered with metal bars.

Mohammad Ilyas, a factory worker who was injured as he jumped out of the building, said he was working with roughly 50 other men and women on one of the floors when suddenly a fireball came from the staircase.

“I jumped from my seat as did others and rushed towards the windows, but iron bars on the windows barred us from escaping. Some of us quickly took tools and machines to break the iron bars,” he said. “That was how we managed to jump out of the windows down to the ground floor.” .

Managers run
Sheikh said the factory’s managers had fled and were being sought by police. Authorities have placed the name of the factory’s owner on a list of people who are not allowed to leave the country, he said.

“The owners were more concerned with safeguarding the garments in the factory than the workers,” said employee Mohammad Pervez, holding up a photograph of his cousin, who was missing after the fire.
“If there were no metal grilles on the windows a lot of people would have been saved. The factory was overflowing with garments and fabrics. Whoever complained was fired.”  read & see more. video.

* FIA investigating fire incidents- Malik:

20120912 1240 PKT
Interior Minister, Rahman Malik Wednesday said that the FIA was investigating the factory fires in Karachi and Lahore which occurred almost simultaneously on the same day and will also probe if any element of terrorism was involved in it, Geo News reported.

Talking to the media outside the parliament house, Rahman Malik said that it has to been seen if there was any wrongdoing in the fire incidents in Lahore and Karachi.

On a query he said that 109 complaints relating to missing persons were sent to UN from Pakistan. UN delegation visiting Pakistan on the invitation of the foreign office and they would be taking our viewpoints in this issue. He said that UN mission has neither come for investigation nor it was permitted. We would brief the UN who were these missing persons—some of them are missing over here, but in fact working abroad, he said.
Interior minister said that he would be raising Dr. Aafia’s issue during his next US visit adding that this was our top priority. read more.

* Case lodged against garment factory owners:

20120912 1612 PKT
A case has been lodged against the owners of the garment factory which caught fire on Tuesday evening.

According to Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon, the names of the owners has been placed on the Exit Control List (ECL).
An investigation committee headed by DIG West has been formed to probe the fire, while the factory’s allotment has been cancelled.
At least 246 people lost their lives when the horrific fire broke out in the garment factory located in the Baldia Town area of the city. to read. & read more.

* 289 killed in Karachi factory fire:

20120912 1918h PKT
289 lives were lost in a horrific fire which engulfed a garment factory located in Baldia Town.

At least 1,000 workers were present inside the factory at the time of the fire to receive their salaries.
Eyewitnesses tell a horrific tale of what transpired in the factory after the fire broke out. Three of the four doors of the factory were closed to avoid theft on salary day and the lights were shut off.
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Production in charge records statement
The production in charge of the garment factory has recorded his statement.
The production in charge in the statement said the fire broke out at approximately 6:30PM on Tuesday.
At 2:30PM the electricity went out at the factory following which the generator located on the ground floor was turned on. When the electricity supply resumed at 6:30PM, two to three explosions were heard from the location where the generator was kept following which the factory filled up with smoke.
The production manager added that after the smoke had filled the filled the factory he came out but people were trapped inside.

MQM announces 3-day mourning
The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) has announced three-days of mourning on the tragic deaths caused by the blaze in the garments factory.
The decision was taken in a joint meeting of the Co-ordination Committee in London and Pakistan.

CM Sindh announces compensation
Chief Minister Sindh, Syed Qaim Ali Shah has announced compensation for the families of the victims and those who were injured.
Rs300,000 will be given to the families of the victims while Rs50,000 has been announced for the injured. read more. & see video.

* Safety at suppliers responsibility big brands towards workers:

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Devastating factory fires in two of Pakistan’s biggest cities have killed 314 people. Many lost their lives because they could not escape the blazes in buildings without basic safety features.

The horrific death toll highlights the poor state of industrial safety in Pakistan, where buildings are often old and unsafe and where many factory owners work outside the law.
The worst of the two fires, which both began on Tuesday night, was in a garment factory in Karachi. At least 289 people are reported to have died as fire-fighters battled the flames for hours.

The other fire broke out in the eastern city of Lahore, in a four-storey shoe factory. The blaze killed 25 people, some from burns and some from suffocation, local police chiefs said.
The factory was illegally set up in a residential part of the city and fire-fighters said most people died because the main escape routes were blocked.

It was a similar story of blocked exits and lacking safety equipment – like alarms and sprinklers – in the more deadly Karachi fire, one of the worst industrial accidents in Pakistan’s 65-year history.
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According to senior government official Roshan Ali Sheikh, the Karachi factory only had one accessible exit, and all of the other doors were locked. Workers on higher floors of the five-story building struggled to make it out of windows that were covered with metal bars. Many were injured when they jumped from the building, including a 27-year-old pregnant woman who was injured in the fall.

Mr Sheikh said he expects the death toll to rise further as rescuers pull bodies from the wreckage.
“It is a criminal act to lock the emergency exit doors, and we are trying to know who did it, and why?” he added.

“The information we are getting confirms the usual pattern of locked exits, an untrained workforce, barred up windows – and an unnecessarily high death toll,” said Ineke Zeldenrust of the Clean Clothes Campaign.

She said that in many factories across south east Asia there were two key problems: firstly, the substandard buildings which house the factories, and secondly the lack of freedom for workers to speak out about their concerns.

In Pakistan the risks are higher as many businesses are forced to use their own generators to provide electricity to avoid blackouts. A spark from the generator igniting chemicals used in the shoe-making process is reported to have caused the Lahore blaze.
Many workers do not have contracts, so compensation is also an issue – and Zeldenrust said so far this seemed to be the case in Karachi and Lahore.

“On the one hand, there’s a sub-standard building and no respect for safety regulations. On the other there is a climate that is repressing freedom of expression, making it impossible for workers to ensure their own safety,” she said.
At the moment, the Clean Clothes Campaign is trying to ascertain which brands use the factories in their supply chains. read the complete article.

* 21 burnt alive in Lahore, at least 22 in Karachi:

20120912 18.30h LT

At least 22 workers, among them three women, burned to death and over 20 others were injured when a fire broke out in a garments factory in Site area of the city on Tuesday.

The injured were taken to Civil and Abbasi Shaheed hospitals for treatment of burns injuries and smoke inhalation.
Most of them died during treatment at the Burns Centre of the Civil Hospital.

“Fourteen bodies have been kept in Civil Hospital’s mortuary,” said a rescue worker of an ambulance service.
Three charred bodies were taken to the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre because there was not much space left for keeping more bodies in the Civil Hospital.
Sources said the victims brought to the Civil Hospital had serious burns injuries. A large number of women were among the injured.

The fire had broken out on the second floor of the building at around 6pm and was raging till the filing of this report.
A senior fire officer said there were over 1,000 workers in the factory, but most of them had left at 5pm while about 200 stayed back for overtime.
read more.
& read more.  & read more.

* Investigation in factory fire incident:

20120912 23.12 PKT

The Inspector General of Police (IGP) Fayyaz Ahmed Leghari of Sindh Police taking notice of the fire incident occurred in Baldia Town area had formed an inquiry committee under the supervision of Additional Inspector General of Police (Addl. IG) Karachi Iqbal Mehmood.

Moreover, a Senior Member of the inquiry team had termed the blaze as deliberately criminal negligence.

It may be noted here that, on Tuesday evening a huge fire was set ablaze within Ali-Enterprises in SITE-B police remits in which the death toll related to the factory fire has risen to 295 including 17 women, hospital officials and rescue workers said on Wednesday. An unknown fireman also expired during rescue work at the affected factory but, his name and identity was not revealed till filling of this report.

 

Afterwards the IGP Sindh had called upon a meeting at his office on Wednesday and had formed an inquiry team under the supervision of Addl. IG Karachi Iqbal Mehmood and the members were Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Mohammed Farooq Awan, SSP West Amir Farooqi and SSP Investigation West.

The IGP Leghari in his orders said that the members had thoroughly investigate the incident from all angles and also took help from Sindh Police-Forensic Division for technical and scientific assistance to investigate. read more.

* Overall death toll from factory fires soars to 310:

20120913 08.45h LT
More than 310 Pakistanis perished in horrific fires that destroyed two factories in Pakistan, an unprecedented industrial tragedy that prompted calls Wednesday for an overhaul of poor safety standards.

At least 289 people died at a garment factory in Karachi, Pakistan’s biggest city and the capital of Sindh province, just hours after 21 died at a shoe factory in Lahore, close to the Indian border.
In scenes of horror, relatives watched as loved ones jumped from windows of the four-storey building in Karachi where hundreds were working in a bid to escape the blaze, which began late Tuesday.

Karachi fire chief Ehtesham Salim said rescue workers were facing problems retrieving more bodies from the basement as it was filled with hot water after efforts to extinguish fire.
“There are places in the basement which are still smouldering. Water we used to extinguish the fire has made a pool of hot water in the large area of basement and we are trying to cool it down.”
“There is no electricity in the factory. Our operation has slowed down but we have not suspended our effort.”
read more. & read more reports. & read more reports. & read more.
    

* Workers used sewing machines to smash windows:

Shahzad Ali swung a sewing machine into the window to smash it.

He is one of the 35 injured workers who were brought to Civil hospital from the inferno that broke out in the garments factory off Hub River Road. He jumped from the second floor. He’s been admitted to surgical ward No. 2 where he can’t stop crying. His neck and legs have been injured. He is covered in bandages.

Those who were lucky to get out are haunted by the images of their colleagues being swallowed up by the flames. Bakhtiar Gul, who was a mechanic on the third floor of the adjoining block, remembers waiting for his salary, as it was a pay day. “Suddenly, there were flames and we gathered at the other end of the room,” he said. Alert people outside threw them a rope and he managed to get himself and five to six women out of the room. “Everyone wanted to get out. I saw people behind me on fire,” he said terrified. read more.

* Tragedy: PM asks governor for report on factory fire:

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Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf called Governor Latif Khan Khosa from China on Wednesday and asked him to prepare a report on the fire at a shoe factory at Bund Road. Ashraf told Khosa that on his way back from China, he would stop over in Lahore.

Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, the deputy prime minister, lashed out at the Punjab government for not making functional the burn unit the PML-Q government had “established” at Jinnah Hospital when he was chief minister. He said many of the people injured in the factory fire could have been saved had the burn unit been functional.
“How many lives do the rulers of the Punjab want to take?” he asked.

Separately, the Workers Party Pakistan called for Punjab government officials who had abolished labour inspections in 2003 to be held accountable. read more.

* Fire from hell:

20120913
How does one even begin to fathom the magnitude of the tragedy that has hit the nation in the form of two massive fires? Over 20 workers died in a factory fire in Lahore while in Karachi the tragedy was perhaps beyond the grasp of one’s imagination. At the time of writing of this editorial, the death toll was in the lower hundreds and rising, in all likelihood making it the world’s worst factory fire.

The fire broke out on the evening of September 11 and the factory in question is said to have employed over 1,000 people. It took more or less the whole of the following night to put the fire out and it is likely that the rain element played a role in this as well since Karachi experienced heavy rainfall during the nights of September 11 and 12.

The quotes of the men sent to fight the fire, mentioned in various reports including this newspaper, presented a hopeless situation. For starters, Pakistan has little or no concept of fire safety.
Schools rarely have fire drills, unlike in most developed countries, and this means that most Pakistanis grow up with no real awareness of the havoc that fires can cause to them and their immediate surroundings. More specifically, there is no system in the country of fire hydrants, which are used in the West to supply water at high pressure to fire tenders. This is why, whenever there is a massive fire, one hears of fire tenders running out of water — because they have to carry their own supplies with them, which usually do not last all that long. There is also the issue of equipment such as adequate number of snorkels, which allow firefighters to approach high-rise buildings or get close to a structure if the road approaching it is narrow and cannot accommodate a fire tender. read more.

* geo.tv- Full Coverage:

Fire erupts once again in Karachi garment factory
Karachi inferno: factory owner expresses grief over death of workers
PML(N), PTI, ANP call to defer Karachi strike
CM announces 0.3mn for each victim

* Global brands should ensure garment worker safety:

CCC mourns the senseless deaths of at least 250 garment workers who perished in three factory fires in Pakistan and Russia this week.

“These deaths could and should have been avoided”, says CCC International Coordinator Ineke Zeldenrust. “Emergency exits were absent or locked, and workers were trapped. This is the usual pattern: it is well known that many work places are unsafe, and that workers in key producing countries risk their lives on a daily basis producing clothes for Europe and the USA.”

CCC urges brands as well as governments and employers to upgrade the buildings and train workers and management.

Most importantly, they should ensure that workers can freely organize and speak out when safety regulations are ignored. Victims also need to have access to the best possible medical care and to fair compensation. Unions and labour groups in Pakistan have announced major protests today and tomorrow.

CCC is working with partners on the ground to obtain more information, and calls upon all brands sourcing from the suppliers in question to come forward. to read.

* Pakistani factory fire highlights lack of workplace safety measures, says ILO:

More needs to be done to protect workers’ safety and health, the ILO says, as Pakistan mourns the deaths of hundreds of workers in a garment factory fire in Karachi.The International Labour Organization (ILO) has called for national action to protect workers’ health and safety, following the deaths of at least 240 workers in a garment factory in Karachi, Pakistan.

Seiji Machida, Head of ILO’s SafeWork Programme, underlined the need for concrete action to prevent such tragedies. “We were shocked by the news we heard that well over 200 workers were killed in a factory fire today. Protection of workers’ safety and health is a fundamental human right. We need to reinforce measures to protect workers’ lives from hazards in the workplace. We would like to call for national action to improve the protection of all workers,” he said.

According to media reports, many victims were trapped in a basement with no fire exits and locked doors. Most died from suffocation when the basement filled with smoke. Other workers on higher floors rushed to windows to escape but struggled to get out because metal bars blocked their way. Hours earlier, at least 25 people died in a shoe factory fire in the Pakistani city of Lahore.

Tragedies like these, said Machida, are all too common in the region. In 1993, 188 workers, mainly women, died in a toy factory in Thailand.

“Almost 20 years after the tragedy in Thailand, we still see similar disasters. The risk of death or injuries from fire hazards in the workplace, continue to be an important issue. I would like to call for the strengthening of legal and other supporting measures to improve workplace safety and health in all countries, particularly in developing countries. We call for action to realize Decent Work must be safe work for all.”

The ILO office in Pakistan added, ‘We have been highlighting the importance of Safe Work in Pakistan at forums organized with government, employers and workers and encouraging a Labour Inspection regime that protects the workers.” read more.

* Pak factory fires raise question about industrial safety as 310 killed:

Fires swept through two factories in Pakistan, one in the city of Karachi and the other in Lahore, killing at least 310 people, police and government officials said on Wednesday.

At least 280 people died at a garment factory in Karachi, in the worst blaze in decades to hit Pakistan’s biggest city, just hours after 21 died at a shoe factory in Lahore, close to the Indian border.

Dozens of others were hurt in Karachi as they jumped out of windows from the four-storey building to escape the blaze that began Tuesday evening in a bid to save their lives, as sobbing relatives of trapped workers scuffled with police overnight.

The death toll from the fires late on Tuesday is likely to raise fresh questions about industrial safety in the nuclear-armed south Asian nation and draw more criticism of the deeply unpopular government.

The cause of the garment factory fire was not clear. The garment trade is vital to Pakistan’s shaky economy.

According to central bank data, the textiles industry contributed 7.4 per cent to Pakistan’s GDP in 2011 and employed 38 per cent of the manufacturing sector workforce. It accounted for 55.6 per cent of total exports.

Critics say Pakistan’s government is too corrupt and ineffective to focus on the welfare of workers and a dizzying array of other problems, from crippling power cuts to widespread poverty to a Taliban insurgency. read more.

* HRCP asks govt how factories with bad working conditions can operate:

Although the firefighters did a good job, the capacity to fight fires even in the country’s biggest city is questionable at best, said the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) while expressing concern over the death of at least 289 people who died in factory fires in Karachi and Lahore on Tuesday.

They demanded that immediate action should be taken to ensure that safety measures were taken to protect factory workers in the country.

In a statement issued by the commission on Wednesday, they said that although the government had promised to look into the case, many factors which contributed to the fire were common knowledge, including the bad working conditions at such factories. “We already know that due to the lack of multiple exit and entry points, the workers could not escape in time,” said the HRCP. “The factory in Lahore only had one entry-exit point and in Karachi, many workers died because they had to jump out of a four-storey building. Highly inflammable substances were stored inside the building and no safety measures were taken. The situation got worse as there were no fire alarms or fire extinguishers.” read more.

* ‘He was wearing black T-shirt and off-white trousers when he left for work’:

There was no limit to confusion on Wednesday at the mortuaries of the city hospitals where the SITE factory inferno victims’ bodies had been brought for identification.

Families of the victims were running from pillar to post to seek information about their loved ones. It was only after having lost hope for their survival that they decided to steel themselves for sorrow and head for the mortuaries.

Outside the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre’s (JPMC) mortuary were Mohammad Amin and Noor Mohammad looking for their friend Mohammad Shafiq. “We know he is dead as he would have got in touch with us if he had been alive. We are here at the JPMC and three of his brothers are spread out at the Civil Hospital Karachi (CHK) and Abbasi Shaheed Hospital (ASH) and the Edhi morgue at Sohrab Goth,” said Noor Mohammad.

Sitting in a chair at a roadside camp set up in front of the JPMC was Dilawar Hussain looking for his son Asif Aziz. “I have spent the entire night looking for him at the CHK and ASH and now I’m here at the JPMC, but there is no sign of him here as well,” he cried showing his son’s photograph.

“He was wearing a black T-shirt and off-white pants when he left for work on Tuesday.”

A young man waiting beside his motorcycle said that he had found the bodies of his maternal uncle and his son at the JPMC but four of their family members were still missing. “All the six worked in the same factory,” he said. “I’ll go to the other places to look for them there.” read more.

* Protest against death of workers in Karachi garment factory by NTUF:

More than 300 workers were burnt in garment factory named Ali Enterprises on 11th September 2012. Demonstration hold by National Trade Union Federation on 12th September 2012 outside Karachi Press Club.

“Factories in Pakistan more like death trap than the work places, workers are treated more like slave than human being”

It was darkest and saddest day in history of labour movement in Pakistan when more than 300 workers burnt alive in severest accident of fire in a garment factory in Karachi on Tuesday 11 September.

The fire accident at factory was not the first one in this factory or in other factories, its every day phenomenon but unnoticed till the most heinous crime was occurred and get lime light on electronic and printed media. More than 300 worker lost their precious live at the alter of capitalist greed and lust for more profit.

The society is so criminally brutalized in sense no one heed the voices and cries of downtrodden till the uncountable damage and the un imagine miseries inflict upon them. The same is the case with workers at Ali Enterprises ,a garment factory at Hub river road in SITE industrial area Karachi where couple of time fire broke out in past but no government agency took any stern action.
Read more & See Video on YouTube.

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20120914

* Karachi factory fire: Fearing fallout, industry keeps its distance:

The inferno at the Karachi garment factory was contained by Thursday but has left several burning issues behind.

Fearing fallout from the inferno, the export-oriented textile industry tried to keep its distance from the ill-fated factory, but also called upon a thorough investigation of the incident.
“It is a big incident and we cannot ignore it,” said, chairman Pakistan Readymade Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (PRGMEA) Shahzad Saleem.
The association has 650 members, and Ali Enterprises, the Karachi factory where 259 workers perished, was a member.

“Our association does not have the power to check every member factory of ours,” Saleem said when asked what PRGMEA does for safety inspections.
“The buyer that places an order with a local company does its own audit of the factory,” he said. read more.

* Survivors narrate nightmarish experience:

“The electricity went off with a sound of a blast, followed by four to five more explosions that filled the entire floor with poisonous gas. There was total chaos as people ran for safety but found no way to escape, because the main entrance and the gate on the second floor were closed,” says Shehzad Ali while narrating how he survived the devastating fire at the garment factory in Baldia.

“How the gates got closed on that day when they always remain open,” wonders 47-year-old Ali, who is currently under observation at surgical ward-II of the Civil Hospital Karachi, believing that the incident is somewhat like a conspiracy.

According to the survivors’ accounts, more than 500 people, including 50 women, were present inside the factory when the fire engulfed the building on Tuesday evening at around 6.30pm, half an hour before its closing time. Luckily, half of the over 1,000 factory employees had already left the premises by that time, some survivors at the hospital tell Dawn.
read more.
& read HUNDREDS SAW HELL ON EARTH: Nation’s worst industrial tragedy.

* Choosing between hazardous work or starvation:

“Everyone has to die one day. People like me will die of starvation if they don’t work,” says a survivor of the Bund Road shoe factory inferno.

“I am ready to resume work in the basement (of the burnt factory) as soon as possible. Everything there is intact,” Khurram told Dawn on Wednesday near the factory gate.

The 22-year-old resident of Ganda Engine Chowk of Gowalmandi was among more than 50 labourers giving final touches to soles in the basement of the factory on Tuesday evening when flames engulfed its upper storeys.

A blast followed by cries of panicked labourers on the upper storeys forced Khurram and his colleagues to come out and subsequently run for their lives.

“I know it is very risky to work at such places. The chemicals used in closed places like this do have health hazards… there is no escape from death in case of a fire but what other option people like me have? Isn’t it better to be burnt alive than to die of starvation,” he argued. read more.

* No killed worker had appointment letter:

Not a single deceased employee of the burnt factory at Baldia, Ali Enterprises had appointment letter and thus no one of them was registered with Social Security, Employees Old-Age Benefits Institution and other as such institutes, The News has reliably learnt.

The majority of victims of the worst fire eruption case in industrial areas in Pakistan’s history were below the age of 35 years. The factory was setup some 12 years ago at the main road of Hub River and officials concerned of Labour Department could not see extreme labour laws’ violation over there. No case was ever registered in some court of law by any government department against this factory which they could have made if some labour inspector had paid the visit of the factory.

The News has got sketchy profile of owner of the factory whose name is reported to be Dr Shahid Bhaila who happened to be in his late forties. He is qualified medical doctor but not practicing medicine anymore due to his business activities.

He is one of the major exporters of garments especially trousers in Pakistan to developed countries and he is the member of Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industries besides having membership of Readymade Garments Association of Pakistan. The person in question has business family background and was influential enough to keep authorities concerned silent over labour issues. read more.

* Murder case registered against Karachi fire factory owners:

Police in Karachi have registered a murder case against the owners of a garment factory where a fire killed at least 258 people in the country’s worst ever industrial disaster, officers said on Thursday.

The government has ordered an inquiry and a senior official already told AFP that the two brothers who owned the factory have been barred from leaving the country.
A case has been filed against Abdul Aziz, Mohammad Arshad and Shahid Bhaila and other members of the management of Ali Enterprises, Mohammad Nawaz Gondal, the head of the local police station, told AFP.

“We have registered a murder case against the owners of the factory and several government officials for showing utter negligence to provide adequate security to the factory workers, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people,” Gondal said.
read more.

* Burned alive: Who is to blame?:

The Civil Hospital Karachi was shadowed in a strange silence and gloom yesterday morning. Over fifty ambulances sprawled the space outside the morgue.

Every few minutes a siren blasted from round the corner, and another ambulance made its entry. As a group of anxious relatives surrounded the ambulance, no one spoke. Many families repeated the exercise, till suddenly a cry of horror would break cut the deadly silence like a knife. As each member of the family peeked inside the ambulance, their grief, shock and despair would give way to tears ─ they had identified their loved one ─ only that the victim no longer lives.

They too fell prey to one of the most tragic incident this city has witnessed. The fire broke in a textile factory on Hub River road and could not be controlled even after twelve hours of fire-fighting.

As the ambulances poured in with more dead bodies, there was no more space in the morgue. The burnt victims were left to be identified in the vehicles parked all over the hospital. Grieving families could be seen sitting in the corners wiping their tear-stained faces. Some fainted with the shock and were taken to the Emergency Department for treatment. read more.& read Scenes of horror engulf Karachi.

* They had no chance of survival: Firefighters:

For Feroze Khan, a senior fire brigade official, it was the toughest day of his life.

“I haven’t seen anything like this in 29 years of my career. There have been devastating fires before but so many deaths just boggle the mind,” he said. “They had no chance of survival.”

Twenty-two hours after the fire broke out at the factory, smoke was still coming out of the three-storey building on Wednesday. The heat of the floor burned the feet and the water left by the night-long fire fight simmered. Every few minutes a body would come out, followed by an unconscious rescue worker.

Slippers, a purse and some identity cards were spared by the raging fire. Half-done jeans hung from stitching machines. Blood splattered the washroom on the second floor from where people had attempted to escape.

“Bodies were lying on top of each other in a heap. They must have struggled hard to find an exit,” Feroze Khan said talking about a part of the factory where 100 bodies were found – some charred beyond recognition. read more.

* Industrialists want govt to ensure safety standards:


Rescue workers try to access the top floor of one of the buildings belonging to Ali Enterprises using ladders on fire trucks. The volunteers were reluctant to enter the building since there were fears that it might collapse. They cautiously accessed rooms on the top floor using the roof of the adjacent building.

In view of the blaze at the textile factory, the country’s topmost body of traders and industrialists has called on the government to start a nationwide drive to ensure safety standards at factories.

“This is a huge loss. We want to follow it up until its logical end,” said Haji Fazal Kadir Sherani, the president of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) while talking to The Express Tribune on Wednesday.

“We must ask the government how such factories get the clearance from government departments without meeting the safety standards,” he replied when asked about the safety rules prevalent at factories. “The owners are to be held responsible if safety standards are neglected at their factories.”

The incident is not the first. Some factories are located in congested streets where even fire tenders can’t go. “Both the fire incidents of Karachi and Lahore need thorough investigations and we are ready to support the government in this task,” Sherani added. read more.

* City hospitals can treat only 50-70 burn victims at a time:

In case of a massive fire incident on the pattern of Baldia garment factory, Karachi’s tertiary-care hospitals have the treatment capacity for only 60 to 70 burn patients, as the Civil Hospital Karachi alone has a fully-equipped burns centre with trained staff and an Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

The News conducted a survey on Wednesday following the tragic fire incident at the garment factory in Baldia, in which over 300 persons were burnt alive, wherein it was revealed that only Civil Hospital Karachi (CHK) has a dedicated Burns Centre with a maxim patient capacity of 50.

The other largest public sector hospital in Sindh, Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC), has no facility to treat burn patients while Abbassi Shaheed Hospital, which is run by the Karachi’s local government, has dedicated a few beds at the Plastic Surgery Ward to treat completely or partially burnt patients. read more.

* Haunted factory throws up human remains:

Rescue workers at the gutted factory wrapped up their operation on Thursday after battling the deadly fire for almost 45 hours.

They recovered limbs and other parts of human bodies from the haunted industrial unit, allowing police investigators and forensic experts to start their job of ascertaining the reasons behind the incident.
A number of area people and relatives of the victims gathered outside the Ali Enterprises, chanting slogans against the ‘slow-paced operation’ by rescue organisations. Many of them entered the building to assist firefighters and charity volunteers.
“We have found a couple of limbs and some parts of human bodies from the building’s basement,” said Karachi commissioner Roshan Ali Sheikh. read more.

* KCCI asks govt to give relief to inferno affectees:

The Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) on Thursday demanded of the government to provide relief and monetary support to the affectees of inferno at a factory in Karachi.

More than 260 people were burnt and suffocated to death in the incident besides more than dozens of people received burn injuries.
The members of KCCI said there was utmost negligence on part of various government agencies who were responsible to implement safety measures.
Concerned government departments pressurise industrialists on monthly basis to extort money in the name of implementation of rules and do not pay attention in the real implementation. read more.

* KESC waives dues of affected families:

The Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) has expressed its deepest sorrow over the deaths of the workers killed in the Baldia Town factory fire, and announced waiver of all existing and outstanding electricity dues in addition to the supply of free electricity to the affected families for six months.

In a statement issued here on Wednesday, the KESC offered its condolences and deepest sympathies with the families of the victims, most of whom were the breadwinners of their families

The power utility said that the waiver was being made under its Corporate Society Responsibility (CSR) programme to express its solidarity with the aggrieved families and to provide whatever solace it could.
“Since the KESC plays an important role in the lives of city-dwellers, we consider it our social responsibility to offer our support and stand by our consumers during trying times,” the statement said. read more.

* Burnt Karachi factory was not registered: Ministry of Labour report:

Sindh Ministry of Labour has submitted its initial report in the deadly factory fire in Karachi to the Sindh Government on Thursday, Express News reported on Thursday.

According to the report prepared by Director Labour-West Division, the factory had not been registered under the 1934 Factories Act and the organisation had also failed to submit a Letter of Occupation to the concerned authorities.
An organisation is bound to submit a Letter of Acceptance and or Permission Letter to the authorities. read more.

* Karachi fire and after :

The factory fires in Karachi and Lahore, which killed a combined total of over 300 people, were entirely preventable. Had the factory owners complied with existing laws and had local authorities shown any interest in enforcing these, the fires would have been preventable.
It is likely that the fires were caused by a short circuit, which accounts for nearly 50 per cent of all industrial fires and could be reduced simply by updating the obsolete electric supply system in the country. In addition, fire safety laws, which fall under the purview of district and provincial governments, should be refined in the wake of this tragedy to force all commercial and residential buildings and homes to use only fire resistant cables.

As it is, the laws we have on the books should have been enough, had they been followed and enforced, to contain the fallout from the fires. The Factories Act of 1934 (amended in 1997) has an entire section devoted to fire safety. Ali Enterprises, the textile company which owned the factory where the fire took place, is guilty of flouting several laws. According to eyewitnesses, only one exit was open while the rest were fastened. The owner and chief executive officer of Ali Enterprises have been placed on the exit control list but that on its own is not enough. They must be prosecuted and jailed for their negligence and criminality. read more.

* Geo.tv- Full Coverage:

Khi factory fire: 80pc water drained, 2 more bodies recovered
Karachi fire: Relatives risk lives to reach remains

Fire erupts once again in Karachi garment factory
Karachi inferno: factory owner expresses grief over death of workers

To read & See.

* in The News – an overview- updated:

Khi factory fire: 80pc water drained, 2 more bodies recovered

* Around 350 workers were caught by fire and died:

By Nadeem Parwaz General Secretary PTGLWF
We shocked as the reports appeared in media that around 350 workers were
caught by fire and died at the  spot in Karachi Garments Factory
and Lahore shoes Factory.Our hearts are out on the Saded incidents and We are Concerned about the
Prevailing Safety conditions at the Work place in the Factories .
These incidents Speaks in Volume about the implementation of Labour Laws
and rules while performance of relevant departments is also questionable.At this moment Pakistan Textile Garments and Leather Workers Federation
Demands:
1. The Legal heirs of all Workers died during these incident be compensated within seven days.
2. The Workers injured due to that incident be treated on state expenses and compensation be also given to them without delay.
3. A complete and comprehensive survey be conduct to all the factories to determine there measures for safety and fire.
4. Regular inspection by the Labour , Industry , Civil defence , Environment and Building departments be enforced and their periodical reports be made public.
5. Inquiry commission to investigate the both cases of the incident and fixed responsibilities may also recommended minimum requirements for exit points in each and every Factory.

* Pakistan Factory Fires Tied to Criminal Negligence by Government and Employers:

By Khalid Mahmood is the director of the Labour Education Foundation in Pakistan.

At least 289 textile workers in Karachi and 25 shoe makers in Lahore died due to factory fires on Tuesday. This is the biggest loss of worker lives due to factory fires in Pakistan in some decades. The cruel negligence of governments in Sindh and Punjab and also of the federal government has resulted in such a huge loss of lives of the poorest of the poor.

Looking at the factories engulfed with fire on television, I could imagine the working conditions inside these factories, with very small work spaces for each worker, no proper ventilation system, only one exit, no fire safety equipment and an atmosphere full of chemicals. This is the horrifying situation that still exists in many thousand other small factories in Pakistan’s largest cities. Sindh and Punjab are both provinces that have had a ban on the labour inspection of factories until last year. Even still, the labour department officials cannot inspect the factories without prior approval from the employer. In addition, rampant corruption within labour departments deprives workers of their basic rights.

Today, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said that the Federal Investigation Agency will investigate these factory fires. The irony is that the government is still not upholding its responsibility to implement laws with sufficient political will in order to ensure the protection of workers’ basic rights, including safe working conditions and freedom of association. Instead, the government’s response is to investigate the incident as an isolated, exceptional incident. No doubt it is heinous crime that should be investigated, with responsible persons from employers and government brought to justice; but government should also show a willingness to implement labour laws in their true spirit, and providing sufficient tools and trainings to its officials in order to adequately monitor workplaces.read more.
 

* Death Trap Factories in Pakistan:

-Simultaneous Labor Protests In Four Countries Target Hemisphere’s Largest Supplier of Adidas and Nike-
By Nasir Mansoor Deputy General Secretary of the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) of Pakistan.

It was the darkest and saddest day in the history of Pakistan’s labour movement when more than 300 workers were burned alive in Karachi on Tuesday, September 11, in the country’s most severe garment factory fire accident.

The accident was not the first one in this factory, or in other factories. Unsafe working conditions are an everyday phenomenon, which go unnoticed until the most heinous crimes finally capture the media limelight. This week, more than 300 workers lost their precious lives at the alter of capitalist greed and lust for profits.

The Pakistani society is so criminally brutalized that in a sense no-one heeds the voices and cries of the downtrodden until uncalculable damage and the unimaginable miseries are inflicted upon them. The same is the case for workers at Ali Enterprises, a garment factory at Hub River Road in Karachi’s SITE industrial area. The zone is the site of a couple of previous fires in which no government agency took any stern action.
(….)

The NTUF also demanded compensation of PKR one million (US$10,576) for the families of deceased workers and PKR 400,000 (US$4,230) for wounded workers along with free medical treatment. NTUF also demands strict labour inspections of all factories in coordination with worker-representative bodies, the registration of all factories under the Factory Act, the upholding of health and safety laws, the abolishment of the dreaded contracted-worker system, the issuance of appointment letters to all workers at the time of hiring, and registration with social security, old-age benefit institutions, and worker-welfare programs.

The NTUF also appeals to international bodies of workers to put pressure on international apparel brands to force local manufacturers to respect labour laws and workplace safety standards, in accordance with ILO conventions and local laws in the country of production.  read more.
  

* The horror of it all is almost unimaginable:

Over 300 workers burned and suffocated to death in their workplaces, a garment factory and a shoe factory.
Some died while trying to jump out of windows to safety.
There were no emergency exits, no escape routes.
Not in Victorian England in the 19th century.  Not in New York City a century ago.
But this week, in the second decade of the twenty-first century.
They died in Karachi and in Lahore, making the garments and shoes that you may be wearing right now.
We honour the memory of those lives cut short by demanding justice 
  • an impartial inquiry into what happened – and punishing those at fault;
  • compensation for the families of those killed and injured;
  • and an investigation into the failures of those public authorities who should have been there to ensure the workers’ safety.
The unions in Pakistan are asking us all to take a minute and send off our messages of protest to the Prime Minister.
Please click here to do so now.:

* Make textile factories safe:

Over 300 workers were killed in devastating factory fires on 11 September at a garment factory in Karachi and a shoe factory in Lahore, Pakistan.

Various reports indicate that workers could not escape the fire because the factory buildings lacked basic fire safety standards and emergency exits.

The fire at Ali Enterprises, the garment factory located in Hub river road, Sindh Industrial Trading Estate (SITE) in Karachi killed more than 289 workers. Many of them died of suffocation as they were trapped in the basement. A large number of workers suffered grievous injuries as they jumped from the building to safety.

It is reported that the factory was illegally established and identifying the dead is extremely difficult as the workers were not registered with government authorities nor received written contracts.
In another fire accident at the four-story shoe manufacturing unit at Lahore about 25 workers were killed.

IndustriALL Global Union joins with unions in Pakistan to demand the government pay compensation of five million rupees (53,000 USD) to the families of the workers who were killed, and two million rupees (21,000 USD) to injured workers and that the workers continue to receive their salary.

Unions are also demanding the government arrest the employer and charge him with murder and take action against the labour department and government authorities that failed to ensure the safety and health of these workers.

Send your message in support of these demands to the Pakistan Prime Minister today.
 

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
20120916

* Factories in Pakistan more like death trap: traders union:

The National Trade Union Federation (NTUF), on incidents of fire in factories, has stated that factories in Pakistan are more like death trap than work places, where workers are treated more like slaves than human beings.

It was darkest and saddest day in history of labour movement in Pakistan when more than 300 workers were burnt alive in severest accident of fire in a garment factory in Karachi on September 11. The fire accident at the factory was not the first one in this factory or in other factories, it has been an every day phenomenon but unnoticed until the most heinous crime occurred and got limelight in the media.

Society was so criminally brutalised in sense that no one paid heed to the voices of the downtrodden until the unimaginable damage inflicted upon them.

The same was the case with workers at Ali Enterprises, a garment factory at Hub River Road in SITE industrial area in Karachi, where a fire broke out in the past as well but no government agency took any action. Majority of the factories in Pakistan were not registered with Factory Act to avoid the rules and regulations and to deny the rights to workers. This factory was also established illegally. It was an export-oriented factory.read more.

* Karachi Inferno: Factory cleared after 41 hours:

20120914
The factory which was gutted in a massive blaze claiming 289 lives was cleared on Thursday morning.

Chief fire officer Ehtishamud Din said the operation continued all the night long and after drainage machines pumped water out of the basement, the building was now cleared after 41 hours.
Talking to a private TV channel, he said the upper three storey had already been cleared, however, the basement that was filled with water became extremely hot as a result of continued 18-hour inferno. The fire officer Ehtisham asserted there is no more dead body left at the factory now. Earlier at night, the second storey of the gutted garment factory caught fire again, however, the fire-tenders brought it under control.
On Thursday morning, the affected families staged protest demonstration as the heavy machinery could not be transported to the blaze site, which delayed the relief work at the basement of the factory. The affected people warned they will themselves drain out the accumulated water after breaking the wall of the factory, if the administration continues to display disregard over the tragedy of so immense proportions. As many as 217 bodies were kept at Edhi Center; of them, 107 have been delivered to the bereaved families after identification process. read more.

* Families of missing workers still looking for bodies:

20120914
Desperate family members of still missing workers were looking for their loved ones in the fire-struck garment factory in Baldia Town on Thursday afternoon, when search for more bodies had almost been abandoned.

It was the third day of the fire, which had erupted in the industrial unit on Tuesday at around 7pm when the three-storey-plus-basement factory was packed with 800 to 1,000 garment workers busy in their respective tasks on jeans being prepared for export.

Among the grief-stricken people were Rafiqunnissa and her family, residents of Baldia Town. The family members, all females, were sitting on a pavement outside the Baldia factory. They were holding photographs of four young women who and an aunt of theirs were believed to be burnt to death in the factory inferno.

“They all were employees of the factory and their male relative Ijaz had managed to get them at one place,” said one of the grieving women, adding that Ijaz had been in contact with the family even after the fire had broken out. read more.

*  Punjab government announces Rs. 3 lacs aid package for victims:

20120914
The leader of Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N), Mian Nawaz Sharif has announced Rs. 3 lacs aid to the families of those killed in the Baldia Town tragedy, DawnNews reported.

Sharif arrived here on Friday to visit the Baldia Town factory which was the scene of Pakistan’s worst industrial disaster earlier this week.
When he arrived at the site of the incident, PML-N workers displayed disorderly behaviour in order to get closer to their leader. This caused much disturbance during Sharif’s visit.

While speaking to the media at the factory, Sharif said that the government must aid the victims’ families in every possible way. He added that Punjab government shall give Rs. 3 lacs in aid to the victims’ families. read more. & read more.
 

* SHC bails accused:

20120914
Three factory-owners facing murder charges over the deaths of 289 people in a huge fire in Karachi handed themselves in to court on Friday to request pre-arrest bail, their lawyer said.

Workers burned to death or suffocated in the massive blaze that engulfed Ali Enterprises clothing factory, which made ready-to-wear clothes for export to Western retailers, on Tuesday evening.
Police registered a murder case over the fire on Thursday, saying the owners — Abdul Aziz, Mohammad Arshad and Shahid Bhaila — had shown “utter negligence” about workers’ safety.
The trio, who have not been arrested, appeared in the high court in Larkana, 450 kilometres (300 miles) north of Karachi and were granted “protective bail” for eight days, their lawyer Aamir Mansoor Qureshi told AFP.
He said they went to the Larkana court as they feared for their lives in Karachi, the metropolis of 18 million people which came to a standstill on Thursday as a mark of respect for the victims of Pakistan’s worst ever industrial fire.
read more. & read more. & read more.
   

* Court grants bail to factory owners:

20120914
The three factory owners facing murder charges for the deaths of over 250 people in their garment factory fire were granted protective bail till September 21 by the Sindh High Court’s (SHC) circuit bench Larkana on Friday.

Abdul Aziz Bhaila and his sons Arshad Bhaila and Shahid Bhaila had appeared before the court through their lawyer Abid Mansoob Qureshi.
Reports said that the single bench, comprising Justice Hassan Azhar Rizvi, after hearing the application of Abdul Aziz Bhaila and his sons Arshad Bhaila and Shahid Bhaila, granted protective bail to them till September 21 for Rs500,000 each

The court, according to reports, has directed the Interior ministry to place their names on the Exit Control List (ECL), besides ordering the applicants to appear before the investigative officer in Karachi at 9am on Saturday.
The court also directed them to hand over their passports to the reader of the concerned court in Karachi.

Later, talking to the media outside the court premises, Arshad Bhaila said: “I don’t know how the fire started in the factory.”
According to him, the fire started in the warehouse of the factory and as soon as he came to know about it, he immediately called the fire brigade, which took one and half hour to reach the spot. read more.

* “We will prove ourselves not guilty,” say Baldia factory owners:

20120914
The owners of the fire-struck garment factory in Karachi’s Baldia Town, Shahid Bhaila and Rashid Bhaila claimed they got the bail from SHC in order to record their statements before the concerned authorities investigating the horrific incident.

” We want to be part of the investigation … we will prove ourselves not guilty, ” they added.
Talking to media representatives in Larkana, the owners alleged that despite their repeated calls to concerned authorities the fire brigade reached the site nearly 90 minutes late when entire factory was engulfed by the terrible flames.
They refused the allegation that the doors of the factory were locked.

Bhalia brothers revealed that they were present at the site till late at night but were threatened by somebody to leave the site adding they avoided to reveal the names of those persons.
They said that they were equally shocked over the sad incident and would not leave the families of fire victims alone in their grief and trouble. read here.

* Baldia Town factory owner alleges fire brigade arrived:

20120914
Arshad Bhaila, one of the owners of the factory, which became an infernal deathtrap for its hundreds of workers Friday bewailed the loss of precious lives, Geo News reported.

Talking to Geo News, after a court here granted him and other owners of the factory protective bail for eight days, Arshad claimed the fire first broke out in the warehouse and he himself called the fire brigade, which arrived about an hour and a half late.
Not only the firemen were late but they were also reluctant in extinguishing the fire blazing in the storage area and the main entrance, he alleged.

Arshad disclosed that, on that tragic day, he and his brother Shahid stayed put in the burning factory till midnight and did not leave until “someone” warned them to get out of there.

He however refused to disclose who that mysterious “person” was.
“I know that person very well but my tongue is tied”.

To a question he said that they got themselves bailed to share the grief of their deceased workers families.
“My workers were like my own flesh and blood”, Arshad said. read more.

* Sindh CM orders probe into garments factory fire incident:

20120914
Sindh Chief Minister (CM) Syed Qaim Ali Shah has ordered a thorough investigation into Karachi garments factory inferno killing around 300 workers. including female workers and for submission of the detailed report within next three days.

Shah, on behalf of Sindh government, announced to give Rs 0.3 million each for the deceased and Rs 50,000 each for the injured along with proper treatment on the Government expenses.

It is very necessary to fix the responsibility for this worst tragedy and learnt about the causes. The factory owners must come on the surface and play active part in the investigation otherwise they would be held totally responsible and taken to task, the chief minister said while talking to media during his visit to garments factory in SITE area, here on Thursday.

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) member of National Assembly and president PPP Karachi Division Abdul Qadir Patel, Sindh Ministers Rafiq Engineer, Nadeem Bhutto and Haji Muzaffar Shujra, and Special Assistants to the CM Rashid Hussain Rabbani, Waqar Mehdi and Siddique Abu Bhai, and Commissioner Karachi Roshan Ali Shaikh, Administrator Karachi Metropolitan Corpo-ration Muhammad Hussain Syed were also present. read more.

* Factory fire highlights risks for workers:

20120914
The death of 289 workers in a devastating factory fire has highlighted Pakistan’s dismal approach to industrial safety and raised fears for the clothing sector vital to the nation’s struggling economy.

Western companies buying Pakistani garments and textiles are likely to scrutinise their suppliers’ working practices more closely after Tuesday’s disaster and there have been promises of a clampdown from officials in Karachi.
But in a fiercely competitive global market, analysts warn factory owners face a difficult dilemma, as higher safety standards means higher production costs.
Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city and commercial heart, has around 10,000 factories on seven industrial estates, according to the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI).
On top of that, there are at least 50,000 cottage and small industries in the informal sector based in residential areas.
Fahim Zaman Khan, Karachi’s former top administrative official, told AFP that Ali Enterprises, the factory destroyed in Tuesday’s blaze, was typical of many units in the city.
“There is not a single factory in Karachi, which is different in shape and facilities as the one gutted by the fire. Everyone, including our rulers, could see similar factories nearby the gutted one but avoid to take action,” he said.
Police records show Ali Enterprises exported ready-made garments to North America and Western Europe, though it is not clear which brands or chains were supplied. read more. & read more.
 

* Geo.tv- Full Coverage:

Khi factory fire: Sindh industry minister resigns 
Karachi fire: Factory owners granted interim bail

Karachi fire: garment factory sealed off

Karachi Fire: 177 bodies handed over to families
PM for Karachi fire victim families help

Karachi Fire: Three DNA camps setup

NA adopts resolution for commission on Lahore, Karachi fires

Karachi fire: security guard among ten apprehended for probe

Karachi fire: Factory owners appear before police

Karachi fire: MQM leaders to donate a month’s salary

Khi Fire: Factory owners shifted to unknown location

* Fire not caused by generator explosion, say investigators:

20120915
In the first such finding during the course of investigation into the deadly factory fire, police officials on Friday ruled out the possibility that the fire was caused by a generator explosion, dismissing the earlier speculation and leaving several questions unanswered about the deadliest incident that has so far been seen as an accident.

The investigators, who are busy connecting dots to find the cause of the fire that killed more than 250 people on three floors of Ali Enterprises in Baldia Town along the Hub River Road within hours, found little success while decoding the CCTV (closed-circuit television cameras) footage installed on the first floor of the industrial unit.

“We have prepared a preliminary report of our findings so far,” said Muneer Sheikh, AIG forensic division.
“After a thorough examination of the building and its infrastructure coupled with wiring and other stuff, it is clear that there was no generator explosion.”
“All the generators are intact and safe,” he added. read more.

* Factory owners shifted to unknown location:

20120915
After appearing in a police station here the proprietors of the ‘holocaust factory’, which became a homicidal gas chamber for hundreds of workers, have went underground in the tightest of state securities, Geo News reported.

Earlier, the owners of the factory Abdul Aziz Bhaila, Arshad Bhaila, and Shahid Bhaila showed up in SITE-B Police Station to have their statements recorded, which they could not as the officer concerned was out of his office.

A new development in the case is a letter written to State Bank of Pakistan to freeze the accounts of the accused factory owners.
According to SP Investigation West, Saqib Sultan, the accused have been shifted to an unknown location to ensure no untoward incidents came in the way of justice.
Sultan added that standard investigation procedure would be employed in the case of factory owners who face murder charges under Section 302 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). read more.read more.
     

* Fire tragedy: Is a resignation enough? :

20120915
The resignation sent in by Sindh Minister for Industries Abdul Rauf Siddiqi, after a factory inferno in Karachi killed a record number of workers, should be welcomed. More than anything else, this resignation will serve to highlight the administrative flaws in the services meant to forestall fires and undertake rescue operation after the blaze has taken hold.

The self-exonerating statement issued by the minister says that he found himself “helpless and with no authority to move against the people responsible for the deadly Karachi factory fire”. While it is a welcome break from the practice of not allowing the buck to stop anywhere and letting the citizens suffer without holding anyone responsible, one might still ask: why resign after the fact; why not walk out after the first feeling of ‘helplessness’?

Mr Siddiqi put his finger on the real cause of the tragedy: “Two key institutions — civil defence and the labour department — which are responsible for safety measures and labour rights are not under my authority and I was compelled to see people dying in the fire”.
The two departments that his ministry was in a way subordinated to are the most poorly handled institutions in the country. Nowhere in Pakistan has the industries minister ever done anything to remove this roadblock. Mr Siddiqi, too, did nothing, but to his credit, he has resigned to put the nation on notice that all provinces need to sort out the decades-old bottleneck that haunts emergencies caused by accidents and fires. read more.

* Rehman Malik rejects initial report on factory fire:

20120916
Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik on Sunday rejected the preliminary report on the Karachi factory fire adding that the element of terrorism behind the incident could not be ruled out and that other aspects into the incident were being examined, DawnNews reported.

While talking to media persons during his visit at the site of the tragic factory fire, Malik said that there was no confirmation in the report about the generator or boiler of the factory exploding and that simultaneous incidents of  fire at factories in Lahore and Karachi could be an act of terrorism.

Malik said that the factory had caught fire twice in the past and yet the owners made no safety arrangement adding that an insurance claim for a previous fire at the factory was also being investigated. read more. & read more. & read more.
 

* Governor assures aid, jobs to fire-affected families:

20120916
Steps are afoot in collaboration with traders to provide financial support and employment to the affected families of Baldia Town fire tragedy, while a strategy is also under consideration for avoiding such mishaps in the future.

This was assured by Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad Khan at a ceremony held to hand over three buses to Karachi Medical and Dental College (KMDC here on Saturday.
He said that laboratories would soon be established for DNA tests which would be helpful in identification of the corpses. read more. & read more.
 

* Fire victims remembered:

20120916
Political, social and trade union activists on Saturday held a procession on The Mall to mourn the loss of around 300 lives in Tuesday’s fires in Lahore and Karachi factories.

Leaders from the Pakistan People’s Party, Labour Party Pakistan, Awami Party, Workers Party, National Trade Union Federation, Women Workers Helpline, Progressive Youth Front, National Students Federation and Labour Education Foundation gathered and observed a two-minute silence in remembrance of the deceased labourers. read more.

* PRGMEA demands impartial inquiry into factory fire:

20120916
Pakistan Ready-made Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (PRGMEA) requested the government to conduct a fair and impartial investigation into the tragedy of fire incident in Baldia Town and take the culprits to task, may it be the owners of the factory, the governments agencies, terrorists, bhatta mafia, etc, as is currently being conjectured in the country and measures should be put in place that such an incident never occurs again.

While offering the heartfelt condolences and regrets to families of all the people who lost their lives in the terrible incident in the factory PRGMEA office bearers and members prayed that God gives the families of this tragedy the strength to bear this immense loss and those injured pray for their speedy recovery. PRGMEA requested the government to form a public/private committee to examine how such incidences can be avoided in the future and a policy should be formulated on their recommendations and implemented in letter and spirit. read more. & read more.
 

* Fires and shrinking exit doors:

20120916
We should begin by offering our thoughts and condolences to the loved ones of those who passed away in the horrific fires in Lahore and Karachi.

I do not possess any expertise on the subject of fire safety to make an elaborate comment.
However, someone has failed to do their job and we should insist on not only that investigation reports be made public and heads roll, but also a larger debate of worker safety and industrial regulation be conducted.
It is said that when a fire breaks out, there is sometimes not enough panic at the beginning and people suffocate when they could have saved themselves because they are too calm. In the alternative, as is likely to be the case in the recent fires, the exit door/s is inadequate.

As the fires in Karachi and Lahore burnt, there was some expression of outrage on the arrival of the UN Mission on Enforced Disappearances in Balochistan.
The lack of panic and the shrinking size of the exit door are useful, perhaps, unavoidable metaphors here.
There is some panic now, but not on the murder and strangulation of human rights in Balochistan. No marks for guessing, it is for our favourite blanket objection to everything; the perceived breach of our “sovereignty”.
It seems everyone important is refusing to talk to the UN Mission since we do not like them meddling in our domestic disputes.
This talk of sovereignty and isolation sounds unpersuasive coming, immediately after the 9/11 anniversaries (both the tragedy in New York and martyrdom of Salvador Allende), the murder of an ambassador for a mediocre, insensitive movie made thousands of miles away, and a controversy about the veracity of a telephone interview allegedly conducted by a US channel with a prisoner in heavy security in Pakistan. To put it simply, isolation is not a choice or even possible.
read more.

* If the fire hadn’t killed them, lung disease might have:

The workers of the ill-fated garments factory, where a massive blaze killed almost 300 people, already faced the risk of dying in a few years as they were exposed to the hazards of manual sandblasting denim being practiced there, The News has learnt.

Sandblasting is used to gives jeans and other clothing a distressed, already-worn look. The technique has long been banned in many European countries and the US as it causes an incurable form of lung cancer.
Manual sandblasting involves firing minute particles of silica on high pressure at denim. Factory workers, who inhale the silica dust, are in danger of developing silicosis, a potentially fatal pulmonary disease.

The Clean Clothes Campaign, an international pressure group, has been running a drive to ban sandblasting in the production of denim garments.
It says that the technique is being practiced in developing countries including Pakistan and Bangladesh.
“Garments for a European brand were processed at the fire-hit factory,” Nasir Mansoor, the deputy general secretary of the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF), told The News.
“The authorities concerned should investigate this and sue the European brand in an international court of law for having its products manufactured here without taking the working conditions at the factory into consideration.” read more.

* Pakistani factory struck by fire believed to supply European market:

  • Clean Clothes Campaign calls on brands sourcing from Pakistan to undertake immediate reviews of their suppliers.
  • Ali Enterprises reportedly supplied the European market.
  • CCC warns that similar disasters could happen again if the root causes of these fires are not addressed urgently.

Information emerging from Pakistan today suggests that the Ali Enterprise factory in Karachi, which burned down on Tuesday killing over 300 workers, was supplying goods to the European market. The Clean Clothes Campaign is now calling on all brands and retailers sourcing from Karachi to undertake immediate reviews of all their suppliers.

Fire ripped through two different factories , killing over 300 workers on what unions have described as the ‘darkest day in the history of the Pakistan labour movement’. Pakistani unions are now calling for the arrest of the factory owner of Ali Enterprises. Demands are also being made for government officials who have acted negligently to be prosecuted.

Early reports suggest between 650 and 1000 workers were working in the Ali Enterprises factory at the time the fire broke out.  There was no fire fighting equipment inside the factory.
The high death toll has been attributed to the fact that workers were trapped inside the factory. Only one fire exit was available, windows on most of the floors were barred and stairways were blocked.
A number of workers were killed jumping from windows. It is believed many more workers died of suffocation in the basement after it became flooded with water. Unions say identification of the dead workers has been hindered by the fact that workers did not have a contract.

The National Trade Union Federation in Karachi state that although the high death toll at Ali Enterprises had led to extensive coverage of the fire, this is not an isolated incident but a regular occurrence in an industry that is poorly regulated and largely non unionised.

CCC also insists that the fire  follows a pattern of negligence occurring not just in Pakistan but throughout the garment industry. read more.

* ILO announces action plan to boost workplace safety in Pakistani factories:

ILO sets out a series of short and medium-term measures in response to the deaths of more than 260 workers in a garment factory in Karachi.
The International Labour Organization has pledged to support the families of the victims of the Karachi garment factory fire and announced a plan to strengthen workplace safety,to prevent a similar tragedy from happening in the future.
Francesco d’Ovidio, ILO Pakistan country director, flew to Karachi on Friday and held a meeting with Dr. Ishrat Ul Ebad Khan, Governor of Sindh Province. D’Ovidio expressed his condolences on the death of so many workers and outlined how the ILO will help victims’ families and the Sindh Labour Department.
“In this tragedy, the ILO stands ready to provide support to the victims’ families, help them recover from their loss and strengthen the Sindh Labour Department to prevent a re-occurrence of such incidents in the future.
The ILO is ready to offer immediate- and medium-term assistance, including skills training scholarships to members of the victims’ families and link them with decent jobs,’ D’Ovidio said.‘We will help enterprises put in place a safe work culture in workplaces through the rapid training of labour inspectors in Sindh,’ he added.Dr. Khan welcomed ILO’s support and solidarity and said it will help the government’s efforts to address the tragedy.“ILO’s support to strengthen the Department of Labour to prevent re-occurrence of such incidents in the future is most welcomed,” he said.When the fire broke out, many workers were trapped because there were no fire exits and because windows were barred.
The ILO is calling for the restoration of labour inspections in all factories and will help build the capacity of Sindh Labour Department in order to improve inspections.
It will also help employers and workers develop a code of conductand will promote the idea of self-regulation by employers.
read more.

* Deadly Denim: Workers Burned Alive Making Jeans for Export:

By International Labor Rights Forum

You have ruthless buyers sitting in the U.S. who don’t care what you do, as long as you do it on time… We take a hit every time we’re late. That means lost margins. That means we do what we need to do to make our orders, fast. This factory owner may have been working extra shifts just for that purpose…

Ali Ahmad, Owner of Nizam Textiles in Karachi, Pakistan

In the aftermath of the deadly factory fires in Pakistan on September 11, 2012, Pakistani unions have called for the factory owner and local government officials to be held accountable.
ILRF expresses our deep sorrow for the pain, suffering, and loss of life caused by the owner’s, the buyers’ and the government authorities’ unconscionable neglect.
We stand in solidarity with the workers of Pakistan, and support the demands of the unions.
We also call on the brands and retailers that together buy $11 billion of Pakistani apparel each year to take responsibility for making Pakistani factories safe for workers.

More than 300 trapped workers were killed in two separate fires on the same day—289 workers in an apparel factory in Karachi and 25 workers in a shoe factory in Lahore—a day Nasir Mansoor, leader of the National Trade Union Federation of Pakistan (NTUF)—calls the “darkest and saddest day in the history of Pakistan’s labor movement.
”The Karachi factory, Ali Enterprises, operated illegally, without proper registration.
When fire broke out—reportedly for the fourth time within two years—more than 600 workers were trapped.
The main sliding door was locked to protect the merchandise; windows were barred with iron grills; stairs and doorways were blocked with piles of finished merchandise; and there were no emergency exits.
None of the workers had appointment letters and most of them were contract employees hired by a third party.  As contract workers they were not entitled to social security or workers’ compensation.
None of these workers had the security to voice their fears about the risky working conditions they found themselves in.
read more.

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20120917

* Baldia blaze Statement of factory owner recorded:

The owner of a factory destroyed in a devastating fire, which left over 250 workers dead, in their statement recorded by police on Saturday sought to dispel the impression that the industrial unit had only one exit and rejected reports about its ill-designed architecture.

The statements recorded by the police investigators put a question mark over the response time of the city’s rescue organisations and their capacity to meet such challenges.

Apart from the criminal investigation being carried out by the Site-B police station, the Sindh IG-assigned special investigation team to determine the cause of the deadly fire and elements attached with the incident moved a little forward by recoding the statements of survivors and collecting ‘more pieces of evidence’ from the haunted factory. read more. & read more.
 


This photograph shows an undamaged area of a garment factory following a fire in Karachi on Sept 12, 2012. — Photo by AFP

* Four days late: PM flies into Karachi to review factory fire:

Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf flew over the burnt Baldia Town factory, terming Pakistan’s largest industrial accident a national tragedy.

Visiting the site in a helicopter, almost four days after the incident, Ashraf did the customary, an announcement of compensation for the victims’ heirs.
The prime minister then presided over a meeting at the Governor House, which was attended by police officials, commissioners, deputy commissioners and cabinet members of Sindh government. The meeting briefed the prime minister about the incident in which over 250 workers had lost their lives as well as on the damaged caused by the recent floods in the province.

According to a governor house spokesperson, the prime minister announced Rs0.4 million as compensation for families of the dead, and Rs0.1 million for the injured, in the fire and floods, after Dr Ebad requested the premier to announce compensation on behalf of the federal government. read more. & read more.

* Sabotage can’t be ruled out in factory fire: Interior Minister:

Interior Minister Rehman Malik said on Sunday that the possibility of sabotage in the Karachi garment factory fire that killed at least 259 people cannot be ruled out.
Talking to media during his visit at the site of the tragic factory fire on Sunday, Malik said that there was no confirmation in the report about the generator or boiler of the factory exploding and that simultaneous incidents of fire at factories in Lahore and Karachi could be an act of terrorism.
He said terrorists are bent upon destroying peace in Karachi, where political, sectarian attacks and bomb blasts have killed hundreds of people in recent months.
“The investigators will look at the intentions behind the incident and the possible involvement of the people,” Malik told reporters at the site of the factory.
Malik said that the factory had caught fire twice in the past and yet the owners made no safety arrangement adding that an insurance claim for a previous fire at the factory was also being investigated. read more. & read more.
  

* Baldia factory fire: 13 workers in police custody for questioning:

The police have picked up 13 factory workers for questioning as part of investigations into the Baldia factory fire.

A raging blaze had swept through the garment factory on Tuesday night and claimed the lives of 258 people. The CCTV footage from inside the factory has initially indicated that the fire appears to have broken out from a spark in electric wires.
“We have arrested about 13 people, mostly security guards and other staff, because there was so much talk about the doors being closed,” SP Amir Farooqi told The Express Tribune.

The officer said that he didn’t want to divulge too many details of the investigation as they may clash or compromise the other inquiries taking place at the same time.
When asked whether the government has been cooperating with the investigators, Farooqi replied in the affirmative but said that no one has really come forward to help.

Two days ago, the police had asked the State Bank to freeze the factory owners’ accounts, which according to police officials have Rs500 million. The request has, however, not been entertained so far. read more.

* Fight for rights: Safe working environment for workers demanded:


Protesters vowed to continue their efforts for safety of workers. PHOTO: THE EXPRESS TRIBUNE

Following the tragic fires in Karachi and Lahore that killed nearly 300 workers this week, a much-need demand for workers’ safety came from leftist parties on Friday.

Scores of political activists, trade unionists and students held a demonstration led by Workers’ Party Pakistan (WPP), Awami Party Pakistan (APP) and Labour Party Pakistan (LPP), and slammed anti-workers policies that were going unchecked due to apathy on the part of the government.
They demanded accountability for those killed in the twin fires.

“The fight for rights will continue as long as people will remain deprived,” was the slogan that echoed at Aabpara Chowk, where demonstration was held without any traffic disruptions.
“Preventable disasters such as these reflect a lack of political will to protect the basic rights of the working class,” said Aasim Sajjad of the WPP.

He said that all the gains of trade union movement to improve wages and working conditions for workers after decades of struggle have been repealed in recent years at the insistence of Pakistan’s creditors, who demand establishment of an “investment-friendly” business environment. read more.

* Geo.tv- Full Coverage:

Khi Fire: FIA confiscates factory record

* Rs20m AWT package for Khi fire victims:

Alamgir Welfare Trust (AWT) has, in an initial response, started providing help to the victim families of Baldia Town factory inferno with Rs20 million worth of food supplies and other essentials.

Shakeel Dehalvi, the spokesman for AWT said that registration of the affected families is underway at an emergency camp set up at the Trust’s central office. The families are getting themselves registered at the camp from 9am to 6pm daily.
read more.

* Workers’ safety: Leftists protest lax enforcement of regulations at factories:

 Over a hundred progressive political workers, students and trade union members on Saturday marched from the Charing Cross, The Mall, to the Lahore Press Club to protest against lax enforcement of health and safety regulations in factories.

Speakers at the rally demanded immediate arrests of the owners of the two factories in Lahore and Karachi where fires had killed more than 300 workers. Farooq Tariq, Labour Party Pakistan federal committee member, criticised the departments of labour and manpower of the two provincial governments for what he said was their collusion with factory owners in following anti-workers policies. He expressed solidarity with the families of workers who lost their lives in the two fires, saying that progressive political parties would keep taking to the streets until the factory owners were put behind bars. He also demanded worker-friendly revisions to the Factories Act and other labour-related laws. read more.

* Our poor factory workers:

“Sometimes it takes a natural disaster to reveal a social disaster.”— Jim Wallis

People matter in Pakistan only during polls or when they are killed in hundreds. On September 11, the death of 300 workers in Lahore and Karachi shook the country. Even those who had never mentioned a single word about the well-being of toiling workers are now trying to champion their cause.

But soon, they will forget all that they have said. They will instead shelter those who are responsible for such tragedies. How many factory owners belong to ruling parties and how many political parties are controlled by industrialists, who not only violate labour laws but also safety and hygiene standards? They blatantly violate rights of the workers who generate profits for them. They neither allow independent unions to function in their factories, nor do they fulfill their legal duty on their own. I have had personal experience of working with the Labour Qaumi Movement (LQM), which has been fighting for the rights of powerloom workers in Faisalabad, Jhang and Toba Tek Singh since 2003. Most factories in these areas have poor safety and hygiene standards. In the last two months, 25 workers were reportedly electrocuted to death in these areas.

Despite the LQM’s campaigns, most factory owners refused to improve working conditions in their factories. They were not willing to issue social security cards to workers and old age benefit contribution to the Employees’ Old-Age Benefit Institute (EOBI). When the LQM built pressure on them, the Punjab government formed Industrial Police Liaison Committees in Faisalabad in order to scare-off workers. Since then, the unholy nexus of the police and industrialists has become very strong. On minor demands, workers are put in lock-ups and charged under anti-terrorism laws. Currently, seven LQM members are serving a combined sentence of 492 years under the anti-terrorism laws. They did not kill anyone.  read more.

* Comment: The silence of the urban industrial elite:

It turns out that what it takes to silence the loudest lobby in the country is a fire, and the deaths of hundreds of innocent workers. The textile lobby, which ordinarily seems to never run out of ways to tell the country how it is indispensible to the economy, has been rendered mute by the fire in Karachi. Their silence is deafening.

Despite the glare of the media on the fire at Ali Enterprises, much is still unknown about the conflagration, how it started and who shares how much blame. But as journalists try to find out more about the fire, the factory and its owners, one thing is becoming increasingly clear: nobody who knows anything about these people is willing to say anything.

Indeed, virtually every person affiliated with the textile industry who spoke to The Express Tribune claimed to not know anything about the factory, what it produced or which European brands it sold to. This is the kind of information that, before the fire, would have taken our reporters less than a few hours’ worth of investigating to find out. But after the fire, an invisible memo seems to have gone out to the textile industry’s magnates: stay quiet or they will lynch you.

Indeed, the few people who did say anything felt the need to remind us that this fire will damage Pakistan’s exports. That nearly 300 people died a horrific death in the factory seemed, at best, a parenthetical concern for them. read more.

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20120918

* Malik sees terrorism behind inferno: Record shows factory had 255 workers:

With Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik on Sunday seeing terrorism behind the Baldia factory fire, the record of the doomed Ali Enterprises showed there were only 255 people employed at the fire-struck factory where at least 260 men and women were killed.

The police have dismissed the initial speculations that the fire was caused by a generator explosion.
There were more than 300 people present in the factory when a fire erupted there on Tuesday.

“In fact, there were more than 1,000 workers in the factory,” said the director of the Federal Investigation Agency, Mohammad Malik. “Though the factory’s master roll states that there were only 255 workers, in reality they were more than 1,000.”
Scores of bodies still remain unidentified and DNA samples are being collected from grieving relatives at the Abbasi Shaheed, Jinnah and Civil hospitals for identification.

“We have taken the record in our custody and are currently examining it to ascertain the facts and irregularities in the industrial unit,” said director Malik. The records include bills, certificates of the periodical inspections given by the agencies concerned and other documents. read more. & read more. & read more.
   

* Garment factory: Karachi factory partially insured with Reliance:

The Karachi garment factory where 259 people were killed by a massive inferno was partially insured with the Reliance Insurance Company – the same firm that is yet to pay hundreds of millions of rupees in compensation to families of the Bhoja air crash victims.

According to an industry official, Reliance Insurance Company had insured 70% of Ali Enterprises’ assets, whereas the remainder were secured by Premier Insurance.
“The plant was heavily underinsured,” the official added. “Only Rs80 million will be paid to the owners for the destruction of their property, including the plant and machinery.”

Surveyors of the insurance company visited the factory on Thursday to assess the damage.
The cause of the fire is yet to be ascertained, raising doubts over the repayment of the meagre amount to the factory owner, the official said.
No official from the two insurance companies or Ali Enterprises was available for comment. read more.

* Factory owners directed to install fire safety mechanism:

The Rawalpindi Commissioner has directed all the owners of factories, government and private offices, mills, educational institutions, bus stands and shopping centers in the Rawalpindi division to install modern fire extinguishing instruments in their buildings within two weeks.

After the tragic fire incidents of Karachi and Lahore, all the factories, government and private offices, mills, educational institutions, bus stands, academies, storage areas and shopping plazas of the Rawalpindi district, along with three other districts of the division, had been served notices to install fire extinguishing mechanism within their premises. The commissioner also asked the major industrial units and owners of other buildings to provide emergency exit facilities in their buildings to avoid any untoward incident. He warned the owners that failure to comply with the instructions would result in heavy fines and even closure of their buildings.to read.

* British firm diverts export order to Dhaka in protest against factory tragedy:

A British firm has diverted millions of dollars worth of export order of garments from Pakistan to Bangladesh on Saturday in protest of Karachi factory’s fire incident that took the lives of nearly 300 workers this week, reported a participant at the Jang Forum.

“A British woman, who had travelled all the way from UK to Pakistan to place an export order of garments worth millions of dollars, left the country without doing so in protest of the Karachi tragedy,” said Muhammad Javed, who is a social worker and a former politician from Peshawar.

He said that she had travelled to Dhaka, Bangladesh to place the same order after she received a phone call from her principal officer from the UK. “She had a scheduled flight to Dhaka at 4pm today,” he added.
Two speakers at the forum – Ahsanullah Khan, chairman of Workers Employers Bilateral Council of Pakistan and Engineer MA Jabbar, former chairman of SITE Association – were of the opinion that Pakistan could see more cancellation of exports’ orders, especially in the garment sector. read more.

* Pakistan fire victims producing for German low-cost retailer KIK:

  • Labels from German brand KIK found in factory
  • KIKfailed to respond to calls for action
  • Campaigners call for brands to take immediate action

The Clean Clothes Campaign today express their shock and outrage at the failure of German company KIK to ensure that workers in its supplier factories are employed in safe working conditions after it was confirmed that Ali Enterprises, which last week burnt down killing almost 300 people, was producing jeans for the low-cost retailer.

Around 650 workers were working at the Ali Enterprises factory when the fire broke out last Tuesday. Locked fire exits, barred windows and blocked stairways meant almost half of them perished. Many others were injured after jumping from the top floor of the building. The factory was not legally registered and had not undergone any building checks or government inspections. The owners of the factory have now been charged with murder, although they have yet to be apprehended by the authorities. The National Trade Union Federation in Pakistan is now also calling on authorities to look at charging KIK and any other confirmed buyers from the factory with criminal negligence.

“These workers lost their lives in the most horrific manner producing jeans for European customers” said Lars Stubbe of the German Clean Clothes Campaign. “That KIK has failed to respond with any remorse or urgency highlights the total lack of respect and care they have for the workers employed in their supply chain.”

Over the weekend garments were recovered from the factory carrying the ‘Okay’ logo, a label produced and sold in KIK stores in Germany, Austria and across Eastern Europe. To date the company has failed to take responsibility. read more.

* Baldia factory inferno : JC told factories registration not mandatory:

A Judicial Commission (JC), headed by Justice (retd) Zahid Qurban Alvi, on Monday directed forensic experts, concerned officers from Sindh Electric & Energy Department, Labor Department, Provincial Electrical Inspector and Chief Fire Officer Karachi to appear on September 18, 2012 along with their respective reports regarding causes of fire at the Baldia Town garment factory that killed nearly 289 people.

The commission also recorded statements of four witnesses including Director Labour Department, Commissioner SESSI, Secretary Sindh Workers Welfare Board and Sindh Building Control Authority officers.

On September 12, 2012, Sindh government had constituted the commission with mandate to investigate the fire that broke out in M/s Ali Enterprises, look into cause of fire, kind of civil defense system available inside the factory building and extent of negligence on the owner’s part.

Recording his statement, Director Labour Department Ejaz Baloch informed various factories including M/s Ali Enterprises garment factory, had not been registered with Sindh Labor Department for last 20 years.

He also submitted Labour Department’s Inspectors could not conduct raids for inspection of any factory, as an Inspector, who conducted surprise raid at a local factory for inspection, was subjected to torture by the factory management some years ago. read more.

* Investigation reports on Karachi inferno to be filed today:

Forensic experts, electrical inspectors and fire officials are expected to submit their findings for the fire at the Baldia garment factory today (Tuesday).

A judicial commission, headed by Justice (retd) Zahid Qurban Alvi, directed the officers on Monday to appear on September 18 along with their reports into the possible causes of the fire that killed 258 people. On September 12, the Sindh government had formed the commission to investigate the causes of the blaze at Ali Enterprises, the kind of defence system inside the factory and the extent of negligence on the part of the owners. On Monday, the director of the Sindh labour department, Danish Saeed, the commissioner of the Sindh Employees Social Security Institution (SESSI), the secretary of the Sindh Workers Welfare Board, Muzaffar Bhutto, and officers of the Sindh Building Control Authority recorded their statements before the commission. read more.

* Fire dept’s report on Baldia factory blaze is ‘laughable’, say civil society groups:

Fearing that the public reaction to the Baldia factory inferno will fizzle out like that generated by other tragic incidents such as the collapse of the Shershah Bridge and Boulton market fire, members of civil society gathered on Monday at the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) House.

Their mission: to etch the incident into collective memory and kick responsible bodies out of their stupor.
The press conference was organised by the PMA and several high-profile members of civil society got a chance to voice their pessimism about the current investigation on one of the most lethal factory fires the country has witnessed.

“Nothing will come of [the investigation],” said Dr Mirza Ali Azhar, the association’s general secretary. He added that the inferno raised a plethora of questions which have yet to be answered: Is there any central authority which allows factories to be set up across Pakistan without protective measures for workers? Which ministry is responsible? And to what extent? If laws exist, who is responsible for implementing them? read more.

* Passports given to court nazir: Banks told to freeze factory owners’ accounts:

he State Bank of Pakistan on Monday directed all banks in the country to freeze all accounts of the owners of the fire-wrecked garment factory after a judicial magistrate granted a request of police to prevent the owners from transferring money to any other country.

In a related development, two of the factory owners submitted their passports and the third owner whose passport was with the Britishi High Commission filed the original receipt issued by the HC and the passport number to the Nazir of the Sindh High Court on Monday. read more.

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20120919

* Baldia Town blaze tragedy:

Many laws of Factories Act not followed

An interesting twist came in the garments factory fire case when it was revealed that many laws of the Factories Act, including electrical/labour inspections, made around a century ago, were not followed by the industrialists against which they were only liable to pay a fine of Rs 500, the Daily Times learnt here on Tuesday.

Sources in Sindh Labour Department disclosed that major electrical and labour laws for conducting inspections and surprise visits on yearly or time-to-time basis had been established as long ago as between the period of 1910-1937. Sources further disclosed that if any factory owner or management did not allow inspecting or restrained surprise-visit, they (factory owner/management) would be liable to pay a fine of Rs 100 to Rs 500 only.

They said that then Sindh governor Muhammad Mian Soomro had issued directions for restraining the electrical and labour inspectors from surprise or routine inspections of any new establishment or ongoing/running factories. “The provincial law department and Sindh law minister, human rights and parliamentary affairs of that time had refused to annul the rule relevant to inspection/surprise visits because no caretaker government, minister or governor could change any rule/law”, sources added. read more.

* All workers from Baldia factory to get Rs3,600 in pensions, says EOBI:

 Only 190 workers at ill-fated Baldia factory were registered but the Employees Old-Age Benefits Institution (EOBI) has announced it is giving all of them, the victims and survivors, a monthly Rs3,600 pension.

According to EOBI chief Javed Iqbal, the national database authority is providing them DNA matches of survivors and victims so they can draw up a list. On Monday, 25 cases were finalised. “The minimum pension for the dead is around Rs3,600 and the same applies to the injured,” he told The Express Tribune. “But it varies from case to case and the tenure of service.”

A total of 185 workers have been identified and the first compensation was handed by the Bahria Town group at Governor House Monday.  The federal and Sindh governments have separately announced compensation for the dead and injured.

There is a total labour force of 56 million in Pakistan out of which 33 million work in agriculture, which does not come under EOBI’s purview. This leaves 23 million workers. “Only six million of them are registered with EOBI and there is no record for the remaining 17 million,” he said. Factory owners are responsible for regisration and not the EOBI. “Either they over report or under report things.”
read more.
         ( Rs3,600 = $ 38 – € 29)

* Bahria Town gives Rs200,000 to each deceased of factory fire:

The Bahria Town on Monday distributed compensation cheques of Rs200,000 each to the families of 178 people who perished in the Baldia Town garment factory fire, while Rs100,000 each were given to the injured.

The ceremony, held at the Governor House, was attended in large numbers by the legal heirs of the deceased. Chief Minister Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah, MNA Faryal Talpur, Zain Malik, Director of Bahria Town, and others were present on the occasion.
Governor Sindh Dr. Ishrat-ul-Ebad said the labourers would be employed soon as he had talked to the traders and industrialists in this regard.

Ebada said that the factory fire was a national tragedy. He said the Sindh government would also provide compensation to the victims within next few days while compensation announced by the prime minister would also be distributed among the legal heirs of the deceased workers soon.
He said efforts have been made to provide jobs to the workers who have been rendered jobless due to the devastating factory fire. He revealed that philanthropists were also involved in collecting fund which would be distributed among the heirs.
read more.

* Factory inferno: Ali Enterprises’ assets frozen on SBP orders:

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) asked all banks on Monday to freeze the assets of the owners of Ali Enterprises’ factory, which was engulfed in flames on September 11, killing at least 260 workers that were trapped inside.

The notice was sent to the banks in the evening after a lower court asked the central bank to stop the people nominated in the police complaint from moving their assets elsewhere.
“We have issued the orders,” an SBP spokesman said without sharing further details. “There are 40 commercial banks involved and nothing can be revealed about the amount being frozen.”

According to investigation officer Chaudhry Zafar Iqbal’s written application the owners have Rs510 million in four accounts kept with two banks.
Ali Enterprises, a member of Pakistan Readymade Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (PRGMEA), had annual sales of around Rs5 billion, according to SITE Association of Industry’s Chairman Irfan Moton. read more.

* Factory fire investigation: Men arrested after calls traced from owners’ cell:

 After pulling the data from the cell phones of the Baldia factory owners, the law enforcement agencies arrested more than 10 people in Baldia Town in connection with the fire at the garment factory.

The detainees, reportedly affiliated with a political party, were taken to an undisclosed location for questioning. According to sources, the suspects had business ties with the factory owners but were not on good terms with them.
Sources added that all suspects belong to one family and one of them had repeatedly called the factory owners the day of the fire. read more.

* Closed doors made it worse, says witness:

Closed doors made the situation worse, deposed two eyewitness workers of the fire-wrecked garment factory in Baldia Town while recording their testimony in court on Tuesday.

Machine operator Umer and accountant Khuram Iqbal, who escaped the devastating fire that destroyed the garment factory and killed about 289 people, recorded their testimony before Judicial Magistrate Karachi West Sohail Ahmed Mashori. This is the second set of proceedings into the fire. On Tuesday, a two-member commission, headed by Justice (retd) Zahid Qurban Alvi, also heard testimonies separately.

Meanwhile, machine operator Umer told the magistrate that he worked on the first floor of the factory. On that evening, he heard an explosion on the ground floor and then the noise of workers who said a fire had erupted. After a while, smoke started spreading. He had hardly reached a window where someone from the outside threw him a rope. He jumped out and fell unconscious.read more. & read more.
 

* Sindh governor, not CM, called off factory checks in 1999, tribunal told:

 As investigations of the Baldia garment factory continue, on Tuesday it emerged that it wasn’t the chief minister but the governor who ordered the suspension of inspections in industrial areas in 1999.

The decision was taken after complaints of widespread corruption were made against visiting electric and boiler inspectors, deposed the energy officials before the tribunal probing the blaze, which claimed the lives of 258 factory workers.

“Then Sindh governor ordered to shut the offices of the electric department and boiler inspection but the law department opposed it and suggested changing the inspection procedure,” senior electric inspector, Amjad Mahesar, told the tribunal, which continued its proceedings for the second consecutive day at the Sindh Secretariat. “Later, the caretaker cabinet came up with the decision to suspend the inspections that no successive government altered.” The two-member commission, headed by Justice (retd) Zahid Qurban Alvi, was formed by the Sindh government on September 12, a day after the fire broke out at Ali Enterprises. The tribunal had started its hearing on Monday, summoning the labour officials before it recorded the statements of fire and electric officials. read more.


The shop floor of Ali Enterprises in Baldia Town which went up in flames last week. PHOTO: AYESHA MIR/EXPRESS

* Burnt factories, charred lives and shop floors:

The devastating factory fire that killed 264 workers in Karachi was a sickening and tragic event but altogether not surprising.

A few years ago when I was conducting fieldwork in urban Punjab, specifically in Faisalabad, Sheikhupura and Sialkot, interviewing heads of  various textile and garment factories and quietly observing  shopfloor dynamics, I was struck by the highly discriminating treatment of labour across factories of different sizes and specialisations.

The majority of factories I had visited were export-oriented firms firmly entrenched in a hierarchy of global supply chains. While some firms like […] were positioned at the upper end of the value chain as direct suppliers to global retail brands and buyers such as JC Penney and Tommy Hilfiger, many others were wedged at the lower end of the chain struggling to establish direct links with foreign buyers and trying to remain competitive in an increasingly cut-throat market of liberalized world trade. The latter category of firms encompassed upstream suppliers to either large firms like […] or to individuals who acted as middlemen for international buyers. Labour relations across the range of the value chain and firm size varied considerably.
read more.

* Multiple government departments control all factories: industrialist:

Chairman of Value Added Textile Associations Rana Muahmmad Mushtaq Khan on Tuesday clarified that all factories come under strict control of multiple government departments all of which monitor safety and security measures in industrial units.

Commenting on the Baldia Town factory fire and the resultant media hype about factory managements, he said that several government departments such as Civil Defence ensured labour training and issued Labour Training Certificate for employees as well as Terminal Certificate.

Similarly, the Labour Department carried out periodic medical examinations of workers by a certified surgeon while the Labour Department’s Technical Inspection Engineers carried out health and safety measures. In addition, there was one Department of Electrical Inspector which inspected electrical installations at factories. Then there is SESSI which “is in-charge of education cess and social security of labourers”.read more

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20120920

* The truth behind the flames:

We still do not know what ignited the fire at the Karachi garments factory that killed over 250 people. This is frightening, since it means we have no clue as to how to prevent similar infernos in the future.

The Sindh government tribunal, set up to inquire into the reasons for the blaze, has not come any closer to the truth thus far. Electrical engineers have dismissed claims by firefighters that a short circuit triggered the fire, stating there is no real evidence of this. The firefighting department, as well as others, have yet to come up with full reports. The observation by the chief of the tribunal stating that highly caustic, possibly inflammable chemicals used at the plant could have been a factor, certainly needs to be examined. read more.

* Baldia Town inferno tragedy : Only five labour officers for 10,000 factories! :

“Over 10,000 factories are working in Karachi’s different industrial zones with only five labour officers visiting them, a fact which indicates sheer negligence,” remarked Judicial Commission (JC) headed by Justice (retd) Zahid Qurban Alvi, convened to probe garment factory fire case, here on Wednesday.

The JC also recorded the statements of relevant government officers, including Chief Engineer Sindh Industrial and Trade Estate (SITE) Ghulam Shabeer Khokhar, Managing Director SITE Abdul Rasheed Solangi, Deputy Director (Technical), Labour Department, Avais Ahmad Sheikh and others.

The tribunal head, Alvi, said that industries/factories’ laws were constituted around a century ago with the penalty for any illegal act being Rs 100 to 1,000. “It is sad to note that relevant authorities did not attempt to re-constitute the laws,” he added.
read more.

* Short circuit behind Baldia inferno ruled out:

The cause of the fire that wrecked a garment factory in Baldia Town last week and killed more than 250 people became more suspicious on Tuesday when electrical engineers testifying before a Sindh government-established inquiry tribunal dismissed the firefighters’ assessment that an electric short circuit had ignited the blaze.

None of the relevant institutions had compiled their final reports that could help the probe body ascertain the cause of the fire.
They, however, agreed to do so when tribunal chief retired Justice Zahid Qurban Alvi sought final reports of the fire and Sindh electric and energy departments on Wednesday.

When asked by the tribunal to “speculate” the apparent cause of the fire in the light of his “decades-old firefighting experience”, chief fire officer Ehtashamuddin confidently said “electric short circuit” as the cause of the inferno that took over 50 firefighters more than 24 hours to douse. read more.

* As time runs out in morgues, the living line up:

Four days after the fire at a garment factory in Baldia Town – men, women and children stood outside hospitals and the Edhi morgue, waiting for their turns to give their DNA samples to help identify their loved ones.

According to Abbasi Shaheed Hospital’s spokesperson Dr Saleem Raza, a total of 42 DNA samples were collected, including two on Friday. At Civil Hospital, Karachi, the doctors collected 17 DNA samples, while the staff at Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre received 12 DNA samples. Civil hospital’s spokesperson Dr Kamaluddin Shaikh told The Express Tribune that the hospitals were asked to send all blood samples to the police who will then send them for testing. He added that they might call a team of experts to Karachi to hurry up with the DNA assessment.

However, Dr Suresh Kumar, the special secretary of health at the Sindh Health Department, said that all DNA samples were being sent to Islamabad. He added that around 99 bodies and 65 DNA samples had already been sent to the country’s capital. Although the process of matching and sampling DNA takes about 15 days, Kumar claimed that the government was trying to speed things up. read more.

* Factory fire: avoiding repetition:

The inferno at a Karachi garment factory calls for certain action. Once there was a big fire in a New Delhi cinema hall, Uphaar, killing a number of people who did not all happen to belong to the poor segment of society.

The cinema hall, which was located in a posh locality, did not have any ‘exit’ gates. With the passage of time, people’s memory faded. So did the public anger.
Years later, Calcutta saw a severe fire breaking out at a business locality — ‘Territti Market’ — which housed textile goods, tarpaulin, etc. The market had two unauthorised floors, besides letting and sub-letting for inflammable materials without authorisation.

A mere punishment for the owner of the Karachi factory will not solve any problems. No single person in the public office will, perhaps, be found above the complicity in the arena of enforcement.
Alternatively, is it feasible to demolish all such unsafe factory/business premises to make way for new ones conforming to safety standards? A congested neighbourhood along with narrow lanes compounds the problem all the more for fire brigades.

Building rules with open space norms are to be followed not in breach but in observance. All hazardous units should be shifted phase by phase to greener pastures.
Next comes the question of economic development. read more.

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20120921

* German retailer KIK to conduct safety review in Pakistan:

The Clean Clothes Campaign expresses their shock and outrage at the failure of German company KIK to ensure that workers in its supplier factories are employed in safe working conditions after it was confirmed that Ali Enterprises, which last week burnt down killing almost 300 people, was producing jeans for the low-cost retailer.

Around 650 workers were working at the Ali Enterprises factory when the fire broke out last Tuesday. Locked fire exits, barred windows and blocked stairways meant almost half of them perished. Many others were injured after jumping from the top floor of the building. The factory was not legally registered and had not undergone any building checks or government inspections. The owners of the factory have now been charged with murder, although they have yet to be apprehended by the authorities. The National Trade Union Federation in Pakistan is now also calling on authorities to look at charging KIK and any other confirmed buyers from the factory with criminal negligence. read more.

* Inspectors Certified Pakistani Factory as Safe Before Disaster:

A prominent factory monitoring group heavily financed by industry gave a clean bill of health to a Pakistani apparel plant last month, just weeks before a fire engulfed the premises and killed nearly 300 workers, many of them trapped behind locked exit doors.

In August, two inspectors who visited the factory, Ali Enterprises in Karachi, to examine working conditions gave it a prestigious SA8000 certification, meaning it had met international standards in nine areas, including health and safety, child labor and minimum wages. The two inspectors were working on behalf of Social Accountability International, a nonprofit monitoring group based in New York that obtains much of its financing from corporations and relies on 21 affiliates around the world to do most of its inspections.

Weeks later, a fire swept the plant on Sept. 12, trapping hundreds of workers in a building with barred windows and just one open exit, resulting in one of the worst industrial disasters in history — one that killed nearly twice as many workers as the landmark Triangle shirtwaist factory fire of 1911 in New York. read more.

* For priceless lives, Karachi factories fined just British-era penalty of Rs500:

History puts today into perspective. In 1934, the British decided that factories would be fined Rs500 for breaking the rules. In those days that was a stupendous amount. Gold was cheap then at just Rs20 per tola. In 78 years since, the price of gold has gone up to Rs50,000 per tola – but factory fines remain at the same 1934 levels: Rs500.

Justice (retired) Qurban Alvi provided this nugget of history on Wednesday during the second hearing of the tribunal into the Baldia factory fire in which 258 people perished.
Labour officials had just told the judge that they were still working with the factory rules of 1934 and could only fine an owner Rs500 to Rs1,000.

“We are toothless,” said Owais Ahmed Shaikh, who is a technical deputy director with the labour department. “We cannot even force factory employers to pay the penalty and have to go to a judicial magistrate to enforce our decision.”
It appears that the Sindh Industrial Trading Estate (SITE), where the ill-fated Baldia factory is located, doesn’t have much more power either.

If a factory breaks the rules, SITE just fines them but can’t force them to undo the damage, explained SITE MD, Rashid Solangi. So, for example, if a factory doesn’t follow the rule of leaving 20% of space vacant in the building, all they have to do is pay the fine. read more.

* Tribunal demands halt to parallel probes:

An inquiry tribunal set up by the Sindh government to investigate the deadly Baldia Town factory fire that killed more than 250 people on Wednesday sought that ‘parallel inquiries’ into the incident by other bodies be stopped as they could create problems for witnesses and affect the findings of the tribunal.

While recording statements of witnesses and the officials concerned, the tribunal headed by retired Justice Zahid Qurban Alvi observed that apart from the Sindh chief minister assigned judicial inquiry there were several other inquiries being conducted by different institutions.

“So, I have conveyed that thought to the authorities to put a stop to those inquiries,” he said. “These parallel inquiries not only bother witnesses and the officials concerned, but may also affect the findings. They should be stopped until the tribunal completes its job.”

On the third day of the proceedings, Sindh Industrial and Trading Estate (SITE) managing director Abdul Rasheed Solangi and his chief engineer Ghulam Shabbir Khokhar appeared before the tribunal. Similarly, joint director of labour Zahid Gulzar Sheikh and deputy director of labour Owais Ahmed Sheikh also recorded their statements. read more.

* Remand granted to accused of Baldia factory incident:

A local court of Karachi has granted physical remand to the accused of Baldia garments factory incident till September 25.
Site B police presented the accused gatekeepers of the factory Fazal Ahmed, Arshad Mehmood and Ali Muhammad in the court of Judicial Magistrate (West) Sohail Ahmed Mashori.
The court has granted physical remand to the accused till September 25. to read.

* LHC grants factory owners protective bail:

Owners of the factory Ali Enterprises, in which a fire claimed 260 lives in Karachi, were granted protective bails till October 1 by Lahore High Court’s (LHC) Rawalpindi bench on Thursday.

Justice Mamoon Rashid Sheikh accepted Abdul Aziz Bhaila’s plea, who along with his two sons Rashid Aziz and Shahid Aziz, had sought protective bails after being booked by the Karachi police in the Baldia factory fire case.

Talking to The Express Tribune, Bhailas’ lawyer Advocate Sardar Ishaq Khan said that the earlier bail obtained from Sindh High Court’s circuit bench in Larkana was due to expire on Friday, but they appealed for extension on Thursday due to the public holiday being observed today (Friday). read more. & read more.

* Cause of Baldia factory fire remains mystery as probe proceeds:

The findings of a key police investigator during the course of a probe into the blaze that wrecked a garments factory in Baldia Town last week and killed more than 250 people made the entire episode of the deadliest such incident suspicious on Thursday, raising questions about the exact cause of the fire and the management’s efforts to evacuate people from the two floors of the building before the flames had engulfed the industrial unit.

Terming the testimony as the ‘only truth’ that had come out during the four-day proceedings, tribunal chief retired Justice Zahid Qurban Alvi appreciated the ‘daring efforts’ of Inspector Chaudhary Zafar Iqbal, the investigation officer associated with the SITE-B police station, and told him to keep the probe body abreast of his findings.

Inspector Iqbal briefed the tribunal on the situation inside the factory an hour before and after the fire erupted through findings of statements he recorded during the past one week. People who recorded their statements included the owners of Ali Enterprises and factory workers and families of labourers killed in the fire to people living near the industrial unit.

His statement raised several new questions and put serious doubt over the role of a few staff members as well as people associated with the company one way or another but still the investigator did not say anything that could determine the cause of the fire.

“One of the senior management officers walked down the stairs to the ground floor from the second floor of the building just 15-20 minutes before the fire had engulfed the building,” he said. “It’s is beyond my comprehension as to how it was not possible for any of the more than 250 people to come down to the ground floor the same way? Why were they not informed of the fire and they could not use the same stairs?”
read more.  & read Baldia factory fire: Inspector says extortion not a cause, lays blame on owners.

 

* 3 watchmen of burnt factory on remand:

Three watchmen of fire-wrecked garment factory in Baldia Town, Karachi were remanded to police custody by Judicial Magistrate West here on Thursday till September 25.
SITE-B police station produced the three accused watchmen, Fazal Ahmed, Arshad Muhammad and Ali Muhammad, before the court of Judicial Magistrate. Investigation officer prayed to the court for the remand in order to interrogate further pertaining to the case.
IO stated in court according to initial investigation the watchmen locked the doors of the factory while salary was being disbursed among the ill-fated workers. Judicial Magistrate (West) Sohail Ahmed Mashoori remanded the accused to the police custody till September 25, 20012 and directed the IO to submit a case diaries on the next hearing. read more.

* Unions are best way to prevent further disasters in Pakistan:

IndustriALL Global Union argues that freedom of association and trade unions are the best way to prevent further workplace tragedies, after it is revealed that certification of the Ali Enterprise factory in Pakistan by a prominent monitoring group issued just weeks earlier did not prevent the fire that killed nearly 300 workers, many of them trapped behind locked exit doors.

According to the report of the New York Times, published on 20 September 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/20/world/asia/pakistan-factory-passed-ins… inspectors of a prominent factory monitoring group, Social Accountability International, heavily financed by industry rendered two visits to the Pakistani apparel plant last month, just weeks before a fire engulfed the premises and killed nearly 300 workers.

Analyzing the certification process in Pakistan the report questions the entire factory monitoring system used by multinational garment and electronics companies to approve their use of law-cost suppliers in the developing world. read more.

* ‘Pakistan must ensure decent work for its 55 million workforce’:

In the backdrop of a recent tragic factory fire incident in Karachi the government, representatives of employers and workers on Thursday reaffirmed their commitment to promoting social justice through decent work environment.

A tripartite memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed by the representatives of the employers, workers and government officials in presence of International Labour Organisation (ILO) country head at the ILO office in Islamabad, said a press release issued.

ILO Country Director Francesco d’Ovidio, Ministry of Human Resources Development Secretary Muhammad Ahsan Raja and Representatives from the Employers’ Federation of Pakistan and Pakistan Workers’ Federation signed the MoU on the second Decent Work Country Programme (DWCP-II). read more.

* Factory fire: ensuring workers’ rights:

THE question today is what have we done for our workplace and your workers’ safety? It is time every one of us looked into their own lives. Are we endangering the lives of people who work for us? Are we giving them their basic right of safety?

I urge every factory, office, warehouses and business owner to pay heed to emergency-safety protocols. Provide your employees with a fire escape, equip your factory with fire extinguishers, get your electricity wiring inspected, and give regular safety drills by providing a functional fire-alarm system.

We, as young doctors, trained first responders and primary trauma-care experts extend our help and support. We have been training people to prevent such emergencies, and in the event of one, handling trauma, burns, fractures, smoke inhalations, drowning, choking, heart attacks, snakebites, etc., through our organisation, the First Response Initiative of Pakistan (FRIP).

I urge employees and labourers to demand their basic rights from their employers. It is your right to be protected from such calamities. Ask your employers to create safety exits, ask them to perform regular drills, and be trained in the event of such an emergency.

If we learned one thing out of the recent tragedy of the fire in the factory, it is to follow safety protocols. Remember: prevention is always better than cure. read more.

* Baldia factory fire victims still not compensated:

None of the families of Baldia factory fire victims have been paid compensation so far, as the government is yet to issue notification for the release of promised funds, The News learnt on Tuesday.

Several announcements were made to pay compensation to the legal heirs of the victims of Ali Enterprises’ fire, who either lost their lives or suffered injuries in the factory inferno.

Around 300 workers were killed and a number of others were injured in the September 11 fire but no one has so far been compensated. Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf had announced Rs 4 lacs compensation for each deceased and Rs 1 lac for each injured.
During his visit to Karachi on September 14, PML-N chief Mian Nawaz Sharif had announced Rs 3 lacs donation for each victim and Chief Minister Sindh Qaim Ali Shah had also announced the compensation of the same amount for the victims.

It was learnt that since the victim workers were not registered with the Social Security Institute or the Employees Old-Age Benefit Institution (EOBI), they could not be compensated as per the existing rules and procedure.
In case of death of a registered worker, the Workers Welfare Fund usually pays Rs 600,000 compensation to his/her legal heirs. As per the procedure the employer concerned signs a document to certify that the deceased was his employee and he also contributes his share of compensation of Rs 300,000 per worker. And the victim family is issued the cheque of Rs 600,000 within 15 days.

The EOBI also starts releasing pension amount in case of the death of a registered worker.
However, this was not the case with the victims of Ali Enterprises, as the Labour Department and other government functionaries concerned have turned blind eye on the majority of the industrial workers, particularly the garment factory in question.
read more.

 

 

map of Asia

THE KARACHI (& LAHORE) FIRE:

20120912
* At least 73 dead in Karachi factory blaze- fire officer
* 100 dead in Karachi garment factory fire
* Karachi factory fire death toll tops 100
* Geo’s factory fire coverage obstructed
* Devastating fires in factories, 21 burnt alive in Lahore

20120913
* Death toll of Karachi factory fire rose to 289
* Death toll from Karachi factory fire soars
* Hundreds killed in Karachi factory inferno
* FIA investigating fire incidents- Malik
* Case lodged against garment factory owners
* 289 killed in Karachi factory fire
* Safety at suppliers responsibility big brands towards workers
* 21 burnt alive in Lahore, at least 22 in Karachi
* Investigation in factory fire incident
* Overall death toll from factory fires soars to 310
* Workers used sewing machines to smash windows
* Tragedy: PM asks governor for report on factory fire
* Fire from hell
* geo.tv- Full Coverage
* Global brands should ensure garment worker safety
* Pakistani factory fire highlights lack of workplace safety measures, says ILO
* Pak factory fires raise question about industrial safety as 310 killed
* HRCP asks govt how factories with bad working conditions can operate
* ‘He was wearing black T-shirt and off-white trousers when he left for work’
* Protest against death of workers in Karachi garment factory by NTUF

20120914
* Karachi factory fire: Fearing fallout, industry keeps its distance
* Survivors narrate nightmarish experience
* No killed worker had appointment letter
* Choosing between hazardous work or starvation
* Murder case registered against Karachi fire factory owners
* Burned alive: Who is to blame?
* They had no chance of survival: Firefighters
* Industrialists want govt to ensure safety standards
* City hospitals can treat only 50-70 burn victims at a time
* Haunted factory throws up human remains
* KCCI asks govt to give relief to inferno affectees
* KESC waives dues of affected families
* Burnt Karachi factory was not registered: Ministry of Labour report
* Karachi fire and after
* Geo.tv- Full Coverage
* in The News – an overview- updated
* Around 350 workers were caught by fire and died
* Pakistan Factory Fires Tied to Criminal Negligence by Government and Employers
* Death Trap Factories in Pakistan
* The horror of it all is almost unimaginable
* Make textile factories safe

20120916
* Factories in Pakistan more like death trap: traders union
* Karachi Inferno: Factory cleared after 41 hours
* Families of missing workers still looking for bodies
* Punjab government announces Rs. 3 lacs aid package for victims
* SHC bails accused
* Court grants bail to factory owners
* “We will prove ourselves not guilty,” say Baldia factory owners
* Baldia Town factory owner alleges fire brigade arrived
* Sindh CM orders probe into garments factory fire incident
* Factory fire highlights risks for workers
* Geo.tv- Full Coverage
* Fire not caused by generator explosion, say investigators
* Factory owners shifted to unknown location
* Fire tragedy: Is a resignation enough?
* Rehman Malik rejects initial report on factory fire
* Governor assures aid, jobs to fire-affected families
* Fire victims remembered
* PRGMEA demands impartial inquiry into factory fire
* Fires and shrinking exit doors
* If the fire hadn’t killed them, lung disease might have
* Pakistani factory struck by fire believed to supply European market
* ILO announces action plan to boost workplace safety in Pakistani factories
* Deadly Denim: Workers Burned Alive Making Jeans for Export

20120917
* Baldia blaze Statement of factory owner recorded
* Four days late: PM flies into Karachi to review factory fire
* Sabotage can’t be ruled out in factory fire: Interior Minister
* Baldia factory fire: 13 workers in police custody for questioning
* Fight for rights: Safe working environment for workers demanded
* Geo.tv- Full Coverage
* Rs20m AWT package for Khi fire victims
* Workers’ safety: Leftists protest lax enforcement of regulations at factories
* Our poor factory workers
* Comment: The silence of the urban industrial elite

20120918
* Malik sees terrorism behind inferno: Record shows factory had 255 workers
* Garment factory: Karachi factory partially insured with Reliance
* Factory owners directed to install fire safety mechanism
* British firm diverts export order to Dhaka in protest against factory tragedy
* Pakistan fire victims producing for German low-cost retailer KIK
* Baldia factory inferno : JC told factories registration not mandatory
* Investigation reports on Karachi inferno to be filed today
* Fire dept’s report on Baldia factory blaze is ‘laughable’, say civil society groups
* Passports given to court nazir: Banks told to freeze factory owners’ accounts

20120919
* Baldia Town blaze tragedy
* All workers from Baldia factory to get Rs3,600 in pensions, says EOBI
* Bahria Town gives Rs200,000 to each deceased of factory fire
* Factory inferno: Ali Enterprises’ assets frozen on SBP orders
* Factory fire investigation: Men arrested after calls traced from owners’ cell
* Closed doors made it worse, says witness:
* Sindh governor, not CM, called off factory checks in 1999, tribunal told
* Burnt factories, charred lives and shop floors
* Multiple government departments control all factories: industrialist

20120920
* The truth behind the flames
* Baldia Town inferno tragedy : Only five labour officers for 10,000 factories!
* Short circuit behind Baldia inferno ruled out
* As time runs out in morgues, the living line up
* Factory fire: avoiding repetition

20120921
* German retailer KIK to conduct safety review in Pakistan
* Inspectors Certified Pakistani Factory as Safe Before Disaster
* For priceless lives, Karachi factories fined just British-era penalty of Rs500
* Tribunal demands halt to parallel probes
* Remand granted to accused of Baldia factory incident
* LHC grants factory owners protective bail
* Cause of Baldia factory fire remains mystery as probe proceeds
* 3 watchmen of burnt factory on remand
* Unions are best way to prevent further disasters in Pakistan
* ‘Pakistan must ensure decent work for its 55 million workforce’
* Factory fire: ensuring workers’ rights
* Baldia factory fire victims still not compensated

latest tweets (& news)

Convention on the Rights of the Child
Universal Declaration of Human Rights

I wonder who they are
The men who really run this land
And I wonder why they run it
With such a thoughtless hand

What are their names
And on what streets do they live
I'd like to ride right over
This afternoon and give
Them a piece of my mind
About peace for mankind
Peace is not an awful lot to ask
    David Crosby

I wonder who they are
The people who are buying these clothes
I'd like to know what they've paid for it
How much the makers have paid for this
Fairer income is not an awful lot to ask
Better working conditions is not an awful lot to ask
    A. Searcher

For more and other (labour) news you can follow on twitter: @asearcher2