Rescue work nears conclusion, 7 still missing


More bodies and survivors were pulled out from the wreckage of a collapsed pharmaceutical factory located in a residential area on the main Multan Road in Sabzazar Police vicinity, raising the death toll to 22. The three-storey factory that manufactured veterinary medicines caved after a boiler and gas cylinder explosion at the premises earlier on Monday. Dozens of people, mostly children and women, were buried under the rubble. Workers of Rescue 1122, Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation, Edhi Foundation and Civil Defence rushed to the scene and started a rescue operation, which is still in progress after more than 60 hours.
Rescue 1122’s Dr Ahmed otld Pakistan Today that they had recovered two more bodies overnight which included a 50-year-old man and a 38-year-old woman while 30-years-old Ghulam Abbas succumbed to his injuries in Jinnah Hospital. He said so far 22 bodies had been retrieved from the rubble. The dead included five men, children and 17 women. He said rescue workers had managed to pull out 16 people alive including seven women and nine men.
He said they had recovered a 25-years-old male in critical condition on Wednesday after around 40 hours.
He said around seven persons were reported missing, adding that according to their information missing persons included Shazia Shafiq (45), Nadeem Shahid (36), Younis (12), Khursheed Bibi (65), Salma Bibi (55) and Mussarrat Bibi (18).
He said rescue workers were trying their best to recover maximum number of survivors. Dr Ahmed while responding to a query said the weather was sunny and this was helping the cause.
He said the teams had dug through the top two floors and were now removing the rubble from the ground floor and would then move to the basement, adding that he did not think there were any more people, alive or dead, left inside.
“Our priority was to complete the rescue operations on Wednesday but now it will take more time and it looks as if the rescue workers might take a day or two in order to clear the debris,” Dr Ahmed added. He said they would still be using light machinery to prevent mishaps.
CM: Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif visited the collapsed building on late Wednesday night. Rescue 1122 DG Dr Rizwan Naseer briefed the CM about the rescue operation. The CM was also informed about the probe that was carried out by DIG Maj Mubasharullah. The CM, while talking to the reporters, said the government would take a stern action against those responsible of the mishap. He said they were planning to move factories out from the residential areas.
Meanwhile Sabzarzar police continued to raid different suspected hideouts of the factory owners. Saddar SP Shoaib Khurram told Pakistan Today that they had arrested three more persons including Arshad, Ashraf and Khalid. He said the arrested men were close relatives of the factory owners Sheikh Zaheer, Sheikh Zafar and Sheikh Zubair.
PETITION FILED IN LHC: Justice Umer Ata Bandial will hear a petition seeking action against deaths in the collapsed factory today in a petition that sought the establishment of a drug regulatory authority and a disaster management authority to deal with such mishaps. The civil miscellaneous was filed by Judicial Activism Penal Chairman Muhammad Azhar Siddique in the pending case against death by spurious medicines in Punjab Institute of Cardiology.
The petitioner said the CM had inaugurated the PDMA but it had no DG so far and that was why it could not play its required role at the factory site. He said in India national disaster authority was actively performing its functions and the Indian prime minister was its head, adding that a detailed report of the incident be sought.

Move it!

A plan is afoot to relocate factories established in residential area out of city to prevent the Multan Road factory collapse-like tragedy in future.
Punjab Government Special Assistant to Punjab Chief Minister for Food and Environment Mansha Ullah Butt held a meeting with Environment Department here on Wednesday.
The meeting included a detailed briefing by the Environment Department, in which Punjab Secretary Environment Sajjad Salim Hotiyana and other officers were also present.
Butt said public awareness campaigns were the need of the hour about the ill effects of environmental pollution.
He said a comprehensive strategy was being finalised to shift the industries and factories from residential areas to outskirts of the cities. He directed all districts offices of the Environment Department to utilise all their sources and take effective measures assure that industrial affluent was disposed off safely. He further said all government offices and schools would hold workshops and seminars on the topics of pollution free environment.

DO makes attempt to save face

District Officer (Environment) Tariq Zaman on Wednesday arrested three men accused of illegally selling the hazardous waste of Shalimar Hospital. Sources said that Zaman, who kept a low profile after the Multan Road factory tragedy, planned the raid to revive his status in the eyes of the Punjab government after news that he had connived with the factory owner to keep it running despite orders for its closure. According to details, an Environment police team headed by Zaman raided the hospital and arrested three persons involved in the illegal sales of the hospital’s hazardous waste. The arrested men are: Akram, George and Yousaf. Shalimar Hospital Chief Executive Dr Arshad Ahmed also suspended the arrested staff members and ordered an enquiry against them. Police has also registered a case against the three men.