LAHORE - At least four workers were killed and more than 25 injured in a factory gas-cylinder explosion that shook the entire Quaid-e-Azam Industrial Estate locality on Friday, police and rescue workers said. The injured were shifted to the Jinnah hospital, where condition of five of the wounded was said to be very serious.
One of the injured told reporters that they were at work in the factory when all of a sudden a powerful explosion shook the entire structure. “I regained consciousness at the hospital. It was a huge and a very powerful blast,” said 38-year-old Sajjad.
Police sources said that a good number of workers were filling Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) from large-size containers into small cylinders when the blast rocked the factory. The explosion badly damaged the building. It was not clear yet what triggered the blast.
Rescue workers say they believe the “huge blast” was apparently caused by the gas cylinders placed in the main section of the factory. A police officer said that factory owner managed to escape from the site after the tragedy.
Several rescue teams and bomb disposal squad officials rushed to the site and launched the operation. Police also reached the spot and cordoned off the area. The police stopped media men from entering the factory premises to examine the site. Three of the dead were identified as Najeeb, 40, Bashir, 30, and Imran, 27 while the condition was of five of the injured was said to be critical in the Jinnah hospital. The police are investigating the incident but no case was reported yet. A police officer said that the police had no authority to raid and seal illegal factories.
An official of the district ad ministration said inspection of this factory was never carried out by the authorities. “Either inspection of factories under various labour laws is stopped under the Punjab Industrial Policy 2003 or the inspectors and social security officers are bribed by the owners to keep them away from inspecting any factory,” he said.
Two years ago, a high-level inquiry conducted by the provincial government found gross irregularities and flagrant violation of many laws by owners of the factory building after a similar blast razed a factory structure in a residential area on Multan Road, killing 25 workers and injuring 17 including women.
As per the official finding of that tragedy, the factory stored and used bulk quantities of highly flammable materials. As such it was required to adopt special protection measures under Petroleum Act, 1935”, the report said. The inquiry committee found that LPG cylinders were stored in the premises for use in the process. The factory used LPG for ampoule filling and sealing.