FIRE incidents in factories frequently happen in Karachi and those at the helm of affairs have learnt no lesson whatsoever to move forward towards ensuring the life of the poor lot that works there to make both ends meet.
In the latest unfortunate incident, at least sixteen labourers were killed in a multi-storey chemical factory in Mehran town, Karachi.
Post mortem examination of sixteen bodies revealed that all of them died due to inhalation of smoke.
This clearly indicates that safety measures were not in place and the building had no emergency exit.
According to an FIR registered against the owner and other officials of the factory, the building was constructed in such a manner that nobody could exit if there is an emergency situation.
In fact this is the case with most of the factories and that is why casualties remain high whenever fire breaks out in such a place.
The buildings are not designed in a manner to facilitate fire tenders’ easy and quick access, and they do not have central fire alarms. Then, question also arises as to why a chemical factory was allowed to operate in a congested residential area.
There would have been more death and destruction if fire tenders had not controlled it immediately.
While strict action needs to be taken against owner of the factory, it is also responsibility of the authorities concerned not to allow establishment of factories in residential areas.
Karachi is economic hub of the country and industries operating from here are contributing immensely in bringing foreign exchange to the country. Hence, time has come for course correction.
Firstly, legislation should be carried out ensuring that any industry-related building is constructed keeping in view necessary safety measures. An inspection team should first visit the site and examine safety measures there before allowing the entity to operate.
Those already operating should be given a timeframe to bring alteration in their structures as per building codes.
Those not following safety measures must be heavily penalised and owners should be sent behind bars as no compromise can be made on life of poor workers.
The capacity of Karachi Metropolitan Corporation should be further strengthened and it should have sufficient fire tenders and other equipment to cope with multiple fires simultaneously.