LAHORE/KARACHI – Tuesday was a tragic day as at least 45 people were burnt alive in two factory fires in two biggest cities of the country – Karachi and Lahore. And it was even painful to learn that most of the 25 workers charred or choked to death at an illegal shoe-making factory at Bund Road, Lahore, were teenagers. Thirteen others were wounded seriously as massive blaze ripped through the two-storey building, police and rescue workers said on Tuesday evening. On the other side, the 20 burnt alive at a Karachi towel factory fire included women and children. After evacuating over three dozen people, rescuers were making frantic efforts to save those still trapped inside the facility located at Hub River Road in the Baldia Town Police precincts.There were more than 200 workers at the Karachi factory when the fire broke out and sources said some 50 people were still trapped in the basement. There were fears the death toll could rise as time was running out for those trapped inside but fire brigade vehicles could not enter the factory situated in a congested area despite a lapse of six long hours. Moreover, hospital sources said that some of the 36 injured were critical.The condition of two of those injured in Lahore blaze too was reported to be critical. Hospital sources said most of the workers died of suffocation rather than burns. As the fire erupted near to the entry point of the Lahore factory, it became impossible for the workers to get out of the burning building. Most of the dead were local children, who had been working in the factory as daily wagers.“We have recovered 21 dead bodies and 10 injured have been shifted to local hospitals. The rescue operation has been completed and we are going to launch investigations to probe into happening,” said Mr Ahmed, District Emergency Officer of the Rescue-1122 Emergency Service. The factory owner and his son were also among the dead.Local residents said that the two-storey factory ‘Demand Shoes’ situated in Malipura in the precincts of Shafiqabad police had only one entry-and-exit point. The building had been constructed for residential purposes but it was being used commercially. The mishap raises questions as to why the officers of the City district government kept mum over the situation. Officials said that the management had not adopted any type of safety-related measures – right from worker gear to the factory design. There was no ventilating system built in the factory. “A few dead bodies are brunt beyond recognition and we are still trying to trace the family members of the victims,” a police officer said. All the labourers were busy at work when all of a sudden the generator installed near to the main entry caught fire and began short-circuiting at around 3:35 pm. The management used to switch over to the generator during load shedding, rescuer workers quoted one of the injured as telling the police investigators. One of the employees told the police that the storeroom situated next to the entry point and filled with chemical drums immediately caught fire when the generator started sparking and later it exploded with a bang. Over a dozen fire-fighting units and a number of rescuers raced to the disaster site soon after the incident and launched the operations to put out the fire and to pull out injured and bodies from the burning building. The rescuers had to smash the widows and make large holes in the walls of the factory to get the victims out. Talking to TheNation, the Operation In-charge, Mr Ahmed, further said that apparently it seemed that the fire broke out due to short-circuiting. “We will find out the cause of the fire once the investigations are completed,” the Rescue officer added. The factory owner, identified as Rajab Ali and his son Asad Ali were present inside the factory when the fire broke out. Both were burned to death along with other workers as they tried to extinguish the fire. Smoke and huge flames emitting from the building were visible from a considerable distance in the densely populated locality at Bund Road. Panic spread in the entire locality as hundreds of people gathered outside the factory while the police cordoned off the site to provide passage to the ambulances and fire fighting units. Many emotional scenes were witnessed outside the factory, where the family members and relatives of the victims were desperately and impatiently waiting for their dear ones. The women were seen crying and screaming as they came to know about the death of their loved ones. “My son left the house in the morning. As we arrived here, we came to know about his death,” a 55-year-old woman said while tears rolling down her cheeks would show no sign of stopping. The authorities have ordered an investigation into the incident to ascertain the cause of the fire and other violations of building by-laws. Chief Minister Punjab Mian Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif has expressed sorrow and grief over the loss of precious lives. The CM has also announced Rs 300,000 as compensation for the families of each the dead. “The Chief Minister has ordered investigations into the happening and a special team headed by Chairman CM’s Inspector Team has been constituted in this regard,” a spokesperson of the Punjab government said. Lahore District Coordination Officer (DCO) Noor-ul-Amin Mangal confirmed the death of 23 workers and said that the fire erupted after the generator exploded in the factory. However, a police officer claimed that 25 people were killed. Rescue workers said that more than 40 people were at work when the fire broke out, which left 21 workers dead and wounded 13 others. One factory worker told reporters that the management had employed over 100 people, who used to work in different shifts. There were several chemical drums lying next to each other inside the factory that also caught fire through the wires. As the chemical drums caught fire, the situation went out of control, rescue workers believed. Several cars and motorcycles, which were parked outside the building also burnt badly.In early February this year, no less than 26 workers, many of them women and children, were killed when the Orient Labs factory in Hassan Town at Multan Road had caved in. Initial reports suggested that the factory, which was located in a residential area, had collapsed due to a boiler blast. However, an inquiry conducted by a four-member committee of the Punjab government, had claimed two weeks later that the four-storey structure was brought down not by a boiler blast but by an explosion caused by leakage of gas cylinders. The committee’s report stated that the LDA had sealed the factory in 2007 following complaints from nearby residents, but the owner de-sealed it illegally. Following are the names of the dead: Nadeem, 20, Adnan, 17, Danish, 16, Iqbal, Khurrum 20, Gulfam Hussain, 28, Akram, 22, Naveed 13, Rajab 34, Salman, 18, Raees 20, Sabir, Tanveer 25, Ali, 13, Ashraf, 30, Abid, 19, Shafique, 35, Imran, 20, Sohail, 35 and Javed Munir, 22. The Karachi factory fire was still raging at the time of filing of this report. Provincial Minister for Health Dr Sagheer said the number of the injured until then was around 31. All the firefighting force of the metropolis had been called in to fight out the blaze. Snorkels were being used to bring the people down from the roof of the factory, which had become a ball of fire.Workers trapped at the first and second floor of the building jumped to save their lives and rests of them were rescued. Eyewitnesses said one of the workers trapped in the two-storey factory jumped down to save his life. At least 20 fire tenders were busy dousing flames. The fire department was facing difficulty refilling the engine’s water tanks as three hydrants in Baldia Town were closed.Chief Fire Officer Ehtishamuddin Siddiqui said most of the people stuck in the building had been rescued but he feared more casualties because he said at least 50 people were still trapped inside the basement. He said that fire fighters were unable to get inside of fire because of the high intensity of heat and shortage of water.Initially two fire tenders reached the spot to extinguish the fire but being unable to control the fire they called for reinforcements and then 22 fire tenders were engaged in fire fighting. Fire tenders of different organizations including Pakistan Air force, Navy, Karachi Port Trust, Cantonment Board and other concern organisations had also been called because of the lack of strength of fire fighters.As many as 36 people were evacuated from the building but 20 of them succumbed to injures on the way to hospital. The victims of tragedy were being shifted to the burns ward of the Civil Hospital after initial treatment from different hospitals including Abbasi Shaheed Hospital and Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre. According to sources, around 2000 people are employed at the 2000 square-yard garment factory. It was not immediately clear what caused the fire. Provincial Minister for Industries and Commerce Abdul Rauf Siddiqui had tasked the authorities concerned to come up with a report on the incident within 24 hours.