LAHORE: Rescue crews continued digging through the rubble of a horrifying factory collapse in Sunder Estate, with the death toll rising to 37 as rescuers pulled out more bodies from the debris on Friday.
At least 102 survivors have already been pulled from the fallen structure of the four-storey Rajput Polyester polythene bag factory near Lahore after it came crashing down on Wednesday evening, trapping scores of people inside.
But hopes were fading for anyone left alive as rescuers scrabbled through the debris.
“There are less chances of finding more injured under the rubble but we are looking for dead bodies,” Arshad Zia, head of rescue services in Punjab, told media.
Soldiers and rescuers were preparing to clear the rubble in front of the factory and move towards the rear of the building where they fear they will discover more victims.
“We expect to find at least 25 more dead bodies in that part of the factory,” Zia said.
It was unclear how many people were in the building when it collapsed or how many — dead or alive — may still be trapped, but officials have said at least 150 people were in the factory when it came down. Over 30 people are feared to be still trapped under the rubble, rescue sources said.
A spokesman for the Rescue 1122 told media that of the 167 people trapped in the building, 109 had been rescued. Most of them had minor injuries.
Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has said the factory may have suffered structural damage in the October 26 quake which killed almost 400 people across Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Investigators are looking for evidence of negligence on the part of the owner of the factory or the government department responsible for regulating industrial activities.
Multiple sources have confirmed that the accident could have been avoided had the owner heeded warnings.
Sources told media that workers had warned the owner a few days ago about severe vibrations in the building when newly-installed machines were switched on.
On Wednesday, a witness said, workers again expressed their fears to the factory owner, but he took them inside the building to show that their apprehensions were unfounded.
Provincial labour minister Raja Ashfaq Sarwar said that an enquiry into the collapse “is being conducted and we will probe all angles”, with a report to be submitted within two weeks.
The Lahore District Coordination Officer earlier told media that the rescue operation could take another three days.
At least 24 people died last year when a mosque collapsed in Lahore, while more than 200 people lost their lives, mostly due to collapsed roofs, following torrential rain and flooding in 2014.
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