Factory Fires Kill Hundreds in Pakistan

Factory fires in two of Pakistan’s major cities killed 45 people and injured dozens more on Tuesday, officials said, including some who had to break through barred windows and leap to the ground to escape the flames, reports the Associated Press.

Survivors recounted how their colleagues were trapped behind blocked exits, and firefighters said that one reason why the fires were so deadly is that the buildings — a shoe factory in the eastern city of Lahore and a garment factory in the southern port of Karachi — lacked clear escape routes.

Such safety issues are common through Pakistan, where buildings also lack emergency equipment like alarms and sprinklers and municipal rules are rarely enforced.

The fire that swept through the four-story shoe factory in Lahore killed 25 people, some from burns and some from suffocation, said senior police officer Multan Khan. The factory was illegally set up in a residential part of the city.

It broke out when people in the building were trying to start their generator after the electricity went out. Sparks from the generator made contact with chemicals used to make the shoes, igniting the blaze. Pakistan faces widespread blackouts, and many people use generators to provide electricity for their houses or to run businesses.

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UPDATE (9/12/2012): News reports indicate that the initial death toll has climbed dramatically, with one report from Agence France-Presse indicating it is as high as 310 people.

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