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Death toll in Pakistan factory fires mounts

Two separate factory blazes have killed hundreds of workers in Pakistan. With the search for bodies at the scene of the tragedy still ongoing, the death toll is expected to continue rising.

A factory fire in Karachi, Pakistan, has claimed the lives of at least 289 people, local officials said Wednesday. The blaze broke out at the garment factory late on Tuesday.

"The death toll is 289. This is not final, search for more bodies continues," commissioner Karachi Roshan Shaikh told the news agency AFP.

Dr Abdus Salam, from Karachi's Civil Hospital, says at least 65 workers suffered broken bones after jumping out of windows.

"People started screaming for their lives," said witness Mohammad Asif, aged 20. "Everyone came to the window. I jumped from the third floor."

Most victims died from smoke inhalation. Many were burned beyond recognition, according to officials.

Earlier on Tuesday, a fire also devastated a factory in Lahore, Pakistan's second-largest city. At least 25 people perished. The blaze was sparked when one of the building's generators malfunctioned, causing chemicals to explode, emergency officials reported.

Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik says he has ordered an inquiry into both fires.

Successive governments in Pakistan have failed to establish a dependable electricity supply that is not hampered by power cuts. That has prompted factories to use their own diesel or petrol-powered generators.

sej, jr/ipj (dpa, AP, Reuters, AFP)