The Karachi Factory Fire

The tragic fire in the Ali Enterprises factory was not only devastating in itself, but also exposed a vastly flawed system that reeks of corruption, inefficiency and negligence
Nudrat Kamal Newsline

It was unusually busy at the Ali Enterprises garment factory in Baldia Town on September 11 – the day a terrible fire engulfed the entire four-storey structure. Besides the workers on shift, many who were off-duty were there as well; they had come to collect their wages as it was pay day. Several women workers had brought their children along. It was late evening when a small explosion was heard, quickly followed by a blaze which spread through the building in a matter of minutes. Workers had little time to escape through the factory’s single exit – many jumped through the windows in a desperate attempt to save their lives. When the fire brigades finally arrived, supposedly delayed by the jam-packed traffic which is a permanent fixture of the Sindh Industrial Trading Estate (SITE), the industrial site where the factory was located, the fire had already spun out of control.

Even if it hadn’t, the fire brigades were hardly capable of doing their job effectively. With no ladders, hammers or even the proper attire, they watched helplessly as the fire continued to ravage the building and the people inside. With the little equipment they did have, they managed to break down one wall and get some of the workers out. By this time, volunteers from the colony behind the SITE area had come to help, risking their own lives – many suffered burns and ended up at the hospital as well.

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