Pakistan Factory Fire Death Toll Soars
WATCH: The aftermath of the deadly factory fire in Karachi
Pakistani authorities say more than 280 people have been killed and more than 60 injured overnight after a fire in Karachi destroyed a garment factory where they had been locked in as workers.
Authorities say the death toll is expected to increase further as they search through debris after the blaze on the night of September 11 at a factory that was thought to have employed about 450 people.
Tariq Kamal Ayubi, head of the emergency department at Karachi's Civil Hospital, said about 30 of the dead were so badly burned that it was impossible to tell whether they were male or female.
Many were trapped on the top floor where some could be seen trying in vain to slip through bars placed over the windows. Others on the top floor, unable to reach a fire escape, plunged to their deaths.
Firefighters say most of the remaining victims died of smoke inhalation in a basement without any fire exits. They say the doors to the basement were locked.
One of the hospitalized victims, 29-year-old Liaqat Hussain, said the fire spread throughout the entire factory "within two minutes."
One Karachi resident described scenes of chaos amid efforts by civilians trying to rescue people trapped inside.
"I was watching the stranded people," Mohammad Ishaq told reporters. "The fire was raging and people were falling [from the top floor]. People who gathered there were trying their best [to help]. They put up a ladder. Some people came down the ladder. Others fell."
Karachi resident Bilal Ahmed said he and other passers-by broke down part of the factory's wall in an attempt to free people from the flames.
"[When] we broke the outer wall people were lying unconscious," he said. "At first, rescue workers took out a couple of people. Then four, five of us went inside slowly and we pulled out many people."
The fire was one of two factory blazes in Pakistan on September 11 that have prompted calls for a review of work-safety rules.
Earlier in the day, a fire at a shoe factory in Lahore trapped dozens of workers, killing at least 23 people.
With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and AP