Search for survivors in Pakistan factory

  • 06/11/2015
Rescue workers search for survivors after a factory collapsed in Pakistan (Reuters)
Rescue workers search for survivors after a factory collapsed in Pakistan (Reuters)

Pakistani rescuers have pulled more than 100 survivors from the rubble of a collapsed factory and are searching for dozens of others believed still trapped in a disaster that has killed at least 19.

Soldiers and rescuers in Lahore were carefully cutting through steel, and using cranes to lift the debris of the building in a bid to find people still alive, with survivors telling AFP that many of the workers had been children.

Medics had to amputate one man's leg on the site before rushing him to hospital.

"One of his legs was trapped in such a way that it was not possible to retrieve him with both legs," an official who did not want to be named told AFP. "We had no other option."

One worker still trapped in the rubble told SAMAA TV early Thursday (local time) that he is pinned under a girder, but alive and feeling thirsty.

Families on the scene were struggling to reach the site, crying and at times scuffling with police and soldiers holding them back. "I have to go there, even if they are going to shoot me," one elderly man said.

It was unclear how many people were in the building when it collapsed or how many – dead or alive – may still be trapped. Officials have put the total number of those involved at about 150-200.

Rescue services spokesman Jam Sajjad Hussain said on Thursday it was "difficult" to give a specific number, but said workers had told officials that about 200 people had been inside at the time of the collapse, including the owner, though that was unconfirmed.

"Rescue work is ongoing and I fear that the death toll may increase," he said.

Factory employee Mohammad Navid told AFP Thursday that dozens of shift workers may have been sleeping in a part of the building that rescuers had not yet reached, and that children as young as 12 had been working in the factory.

Another employee, 18-year-old Mohammad Irfan, told AFP from his hospital bed that the workers were "mostly" were aged between 14 and 25.

Mohammad Usman, the top administration official in Lahore who is coordinating the response to the disaster, said Thursday that 102 people had been rescued, and that the focus of the operation remained the search for survivors.

The collapse occurred at the four-storey Rajput Polyester polythene bag factory in the Sundar industrial estate, around 45 kilometres southwest of Lahore's city centre.

The factory may have suffered structural damage in the October 26 quake which killed almost 400 people across Pakistan and Afghanistan, Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif said.