KARACHI – The owners of the garment factory, where an inferno claimed the lives of around 159 workers, on Monday testified that fire tenders reached the site one-and-a-half hour after the fire swept through the building in Baldia Town.Accompanied by their counsels, Shahid Bhaila and Arshad Bhaila contended before retired justice Zahid Qurban Alvi-led inquiry tribunal that the exit doors of the factory were not locked. In his verbal statement, Shahid Bhaila said he and his brother along with their manager were discussing the issues of the factory in the evening on that day when suddenly an employee came running to them and told about the fire in the godown of the factory.He said that initially as they believed that the fire erupted due to short-circuit, they switched off main power connection and kept calling 16 for help from the Fire Brigade. “But unfortunately, the first fire tender reached the site one-and-a-half hour late,” he recalled, adding that initially, only two fire tenders came. The factory staff advised them to throw water on the spot where the fire had erupted but they were not targeting the exact place of fire. The owner further said as the SITE area pumping station had not sufficient water, the two fire tenders went to carry more water from the far-away Sakhi Hassan pumping station. When Zahid Qurban Alvi asked the owners what in their opinion was the reason of the fire. Shahid Bhaila said that they also wanted to know the exact reason behind the blaze that killed innocent workers.He also said that they were totally broke now. “The FIA, police and other government authorities are harassing us. Even, our bank accounts have been frozen.”The tribunal chief asked that whether they used any chemical in the manufacturing of jeans and trousers, the owner, in his reply, said that he was not aware that chemicals were used or not. The tribunal chief, who visited the burnt-out factory four times, told the owners that the smell of the fire was still present in the building and that the godown on the ground floor was completely gutted. “Machines and certain equipment were still intact and no sign of fire or loss was visible there.” The owners, however, did not give any reply and just added that they wanted to know the reason of the fire. They also contradicted the reports that the exit doors of the building were closed, and contended that all the exits of factory were open. On behalf of their clients, Advocate Qazi Ashraf and Advocate Amir Mansoob Qureshi told the inquiry tribunal that at least 10 employees of the factory were under police custody and were being harassed.They expressed their dissatisfaction over the probe being conducted by the police, and said the police or any other investigation agency could implicate their clients. The owners of the factory further complained that factory as well as its record was in police custody and they are not allowed to visit their factory. On the request of the owners of the factory, the tribunal chief Justice ® Alvi assured that he will try to get permission for the owners to visit the factory in police security. The owners as well as their counsels did not talk to the media persons. Meanwhile, another witness Muhammad Sharif, who survived the inferno by jumping from the third floor of factory during the fire tragedy, also recorded his statement before the tribunal.Muhammad Sharif, in his statement suspected that the fire in the factory erupted around eleven in morning of the fateful day.He recalled that there were 350 workers on the third floor where they were working. The room was filled with the smoke and he saw the workers lying unconscious, so they died in the fire. He also said that employees were collecting their salary on the day of fire eruption. Muhammad Essa Baloch, another worker of the unfortunate factory, recording his statement said that he was working in godown as the fire erupted from the exit side of stairs, so the workers failed to escape and died in fire.After the statement recording the statements of the witnesses, justice (r) Zahid Qurban Alvi said that he will record statements of the other witnesses/survived to ascertain doubts about any eruption of fire in the morning. The tribunal will also record statements of more survivors of tragedy today on Tuesday.