KARACHI, Pakistan, Sept. 13 (UPI) -- Pakistani media and critics, enraged over the deaths of hundreds in the factory fires in Karachi and Lahore, targeted government agencies for the disasters.
With the death toll from the same-day Tuesday fires in a Karachi textile plant and a Lahore shoe factory already topping 300 and still rising, an editorial in the Dawn, the country's main English language newspaper, said the Karachi blaze, the country's worst industrial disaster, "will be seared in memory as the Pakistani worker's 9/11."
"Like the factory fire that struck Lahore on the same day killing over 20 people, (the Karachi fire) had long been building up in the casinos of government officials who make their fortune gambling on the lives of the hapless millions," it said.
The editorial said questions "are being asked about the non-implementation of safety standards and the massive corruption in government ranks which led to such flagrant violations of the law."
The editorial said all factories in the country should immediately undergo regular inspections and a thorough cleanup as they are currently "concentration camps where workers are denied their basic rights."
Anything short of such a cleanup would "be an insult to the hundreds who over the years have paid with their lives for a system that is rotten to the core," the Dawn editorial said.
Pakistan's News International, which said the death toll in the Karachi fire alone had reached 289, reported a group of civil society members, after visiting the fire site, said in a statement, "The entire state, including the government, the bureaucracy, the policymakers, the state departments especially those concerning enforcement of labor laws and building codes are responsible for these deaths as they silently and criminally allow violation of laws and regulations established to ensure health and safety provisions at work."
The group said the Karachi factory did not have emergency exits, forcing the workers to jump out of the windows when the fire erupted, the News reported. The group was quoted as saying the building itself stood as a gross violation of building control laws as there were three separate production units making candles, plastic and garments at the site.
The News said hundreds of industrial workers in Karachi demonstrated Wednesday to protest the loss of lives in the two fires with a National Trade Union Federation representative saying such incidents are common as factories are set up in residential areas.
The News said several dozen workers at the Karachi site had still not been accounted for as firefighters had not been able to reach the basement. Those killed included 17 women and seven children who had accompanied their mothers to the factory, it said.
The Lahore shoe factory fire killed at least 25 people, The New York Times reported.
In the fire in Karachi, the Times said the poorly paid workers in the textile factory had only one exit to escape as others had been locked. Some of them had to jump from top floors as flames spread through the building.
In Lahore, officials blamed a generator that caught fire and ignited chemicals stored nearby in the factory, which was illegally located in a residential area, the Times said.
The report said the textile sector provides a major source of foreign exchange for the country and accounts for 38 percent of the manufacturing workforce. The report said authorities were looking for the owner of the factory and his nephew.
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