The deaths of 16 workers in the fire at a chemicals factory in Mehran Town in Karachi is yet another example of how safety regulations are ignored when setting up a factory, While the factory fire in Baldia Town in September 2012 may have led to many more deaths, with 260 people killed, the more recent incident showed that its lessons had not been learned, and there had been no proper safety provisions made. It may be of some satisfaction to register an FIR against the owner for ignoring the mandatory safety precautions, but it neither guarantees punishment, nor does it leave the unfortunate 15 any less dead.
As with the BaldiaTown factory fire, many casualties at Mehran Town could have been avoided if there had been proper exits provided. Most of those killed are reported to have died of asphyxiation, which is a sure sign that proper access to air would have enabled them to survive if they could have got away from the inferno in which they were trapped. It should not be forgotten that those killed in this fire, as in previous ones, were factory labourers, who should not have had to face the risk of death while trying to eke out a living. The factory owners were doubly responsible. First, there should have been precautionary measures taken to ensure that a fire did not break out, and second, there should have been proper precautions taken to ensure that if the worst did happen, and if there was indeed a fire, there was a knowledge of what was to be done to ensure that the work force could get out safely.
Fire safety is a provincial government’s responsibility, and it was clearly not fulfilled this time, not so much because of the tragedy that occurred as because nothing seems to have been learned from the past, While nothing will bring back those who have been killed, at least those who work in the city’s myriad other factories are made safer by ensuring that proper safety measures have been taken. An emergency inspection by the concerned department would seem in order.