A massive blaze at a garment factory in Karachi left 300 people dead while a second, smaller fire in a shoe-manufacturing unit in Lahore killed 21 on Wednesday.
Around 1,500 workers were at the multi-storey factory in the impoverished Baldia neighbourhood of Karachi to receive wages when the fire started Tuesday evening.
All doors had been closed to prevent theft, virtually turning the building into a deathtrap. The intensity of the blaze, shortage of water and lack of proper access hampered rescue operations, firefighters said.
“We found people who died of suffocation caused by the toxic fumes. The raging fire burnt the bodies,” Abdus Salam, a doctor at Karachi’s civil hospital, said.
Around 100 trapped workers were rescued and 65 suffered broken bones from jumping out of windows to escape. The toll from the port city’s biggest fire in decades is expected to climb. The owner is under investigation for negligence.
Garment trade is vital to Pakistan's shaky economy.
The Lahore fire, too, trapped dozens of workers in a shoe factory, killing 21 and injuring 14, local officials said.