′Extension work′ likely caused Pakistan building collapse | News | DW | 05.11.2015
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'Extension work' likely caused Pakistan building collapse

At least 19 people have died in a factory collapse in the eastern city of Lahore, while rescuers pulled over one hundred people from the rubble. Poor construction and maintenance caused similar accidents in the past.

Rescuers have pulled out some 100 people from the rubble of the factory since it collapsed on Wednesday near the eastern city of Lahore. Some 150 people, mostly factory workers, are still trapped under the crashed multi-storey building. More than 80 injured people were taken to nearby hospitals, according to local police.

The death toll is likely to rise as the chief administrator of Lahore, Mohamed Usman, said "there might be dead among them," referring to those still trapped in the rubble.

The chief minister of the eastern Punjab province, Shahbaz Sharif, has ordered an inquiry into the collapse, DW correspondent Tanvir Shahzad reported from Lahore.

"The Rajput Polyester polythene bag factory also housed hundreds of workers. It was badly constructed, and the owners were building more floors to it," Shahbaz Manj, a witness, told DW.

Poor construction and maintenance

It is unclear what actually caused the collapse, but witnesses say it could be a combination of poor construction and the magnitude 7.5 earthquake that hit northern Afghanistan and Pakistan two weeks ago. The October 26 quake killed around 400 people in Pakistan, but Lahore was unaffected.

"The factory owner had an exchange of harsh words with the contractor (builder) who had advised him to stop the work due to cracks appearing after the earthquake," Muhammad Ramzan, a survivor, told rescue officials.

According to Shahbaz Sharif, the quake might have caused damage to the building, but the main reason of the disaster was likely the extension work on the site.

People help Pakistani rescuers carry a shoe-making factory worker after a sudden fire trapped dozens of workers in the factory in Lahore on September 11, 2012 (Photo: Arif Ali/AFP/GettyImages)

A garment fire at a facility in Karachi in 2012 killed over 250 people

Pakistan has a poor record in the construction and maintenance of buildings. At least 24 people died last year when a mosque collapsed in the same city. A veterinary medicines factory crashed in Lahore in 2012 due to a gas cylinder or explosion.

A garment fire at a facility in Karachi in 2012 killed over 250 people, one of the worst disasters of its kind in the South Asian country.

Pakistani activists say the incidents highlight poor safety measures and negligence on part of the factory owners and Pakistani authorities.

Farooq Tariq of the Pakistan Labour Party says most factory owners in Pakistan do not follow labor laws.

"According to our survey, there are more than 300 hundred factories functioning in the residential areas of Lahore, yet none of them obey labor laws and conventions. They do not allow labor inspection in their factories, which, in my opinion, is essential to safeguard the safety and rights of the workers. Sadly, the government protects the factory owners," Tariq told DW.

Banned Islamist organizations at the scene

Members and leaders of banned Islamist organization Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), which the United Nations say is a front for the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorist group, are seen participating in rescue work alongside government officials. The JuD volunteers are also active in the quake-hit regions.

JuD's leader, Hafiz Saeed, whom India accuses of orchestrating the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people, was at the scene and offered condolences to the victims' families.

Experts say the jihadists use disasters as an opportunity to recruit members and increase their influence among the public.

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