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Karachi factory collapse: Unchecked construction poses threat to EPZA workers

June 4 collapse resulted in two deaths

SAMAA | - Posted: Jun 9, 2021 | Last Updated: 6 months ago
SAMAA |
Posted: Jun 9, 2021 | Last Updated: 6 months ago

A factory collapse in Karachi’s Export Processing Zone Authority has raised questions about worker safety and the lack of building inspection in the country.

On June 4, a used clothes consignment was being loaded at a factory, owned by Bushra Industries, in Sector B-VII when its two floors collapsed and three people inside the building were trapped under the rubble. The container driver managed to move the vehicle to a safer location, while rescue teams were called to the site. Gatekeeper Zahoor’s body was retrieved while Rizwan, who was operating the lifter, was safely rescued.

Rizwan told the teams to look for another worker Ehsaan, who was supervising the offloading process. There was little hope that he may have survived but the rescue operation was delayed and his body was retrieved after four days. Owner Hanif Ishaq has assured to compensate families of the two dead workers.  

It was initially reported that the collapse occurred after the container rammed into the building. A closer inspection, however, revealed that the vehicle was parked at the factory. Others speculated that maybe the lifting equipment collapsed into a pillar but would that have resulted in such a big collapse?

To investigate it, SAMAA Digital visited the site and spoke to people to find out more about the building.

Bushra Industries has set up processing units for used closed on two 1,000 square yard plots, No. 11 and 12. It bought a third plot, No. 13, where the accident occurred, in 2019. It was owned by Swiss Packaging and the company sold it after incurring losses following a third-degree fire the same year, EPZA PRO Malik Abdul Aziz shared. He claimed that the plastic packaging inside the factory was burned but it did not harm the structure.

Six months ago, the owners had built a new floor after cutting the burnt factory’s roof, said a guard posted at a nearby manufacturing unit. According to him, only the new structure had collapsed.

The processing zone authorities, on the other hand, said that they were unaware of the changes made by the owner. The PRO was, however, quick to explain that that may have been done because a cloth processing unit requires height.

EPZA Secretary Nasir Hidayat Khan, who also heads its engineering department, shared that the consulting engineer of Bushra Industries had carried out a survey of the purchased unit and then submitted a design to the authority.

“The firm hires consulting engineers for the building of structures,” Khan said, adding that “a consulting engineer is responsible for design and stability of the construction.”  

When Khan was asked who reviews designs of units in EPZA, he remarked that the authority has no consulting engineers to do so.  

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