Oil tanker fire at Pakistan’s Gadani ship-breaking yard claims 20 lives,scores missing

Islamabad,Nov3:The death toll from an explosion and fire at Gadani ship-breaking yard has risen to 20, officials said , as a search continued for more victims.

The fire that broke out a day earlier at an oil tanker in Gadani far from being extinguished, the death toll in the tragedy jumped to 20 on Wednesday.

At least 58 others were wounded on Tuesday when a gas cylinder exploded and started a fire inside an oil tanker at the Gadani yard.

The toll could rise further because a number of workers were still trapped in the vessel, police and rescue workers said.

Local firefighters supported by the Pakistan Navy and coastguard were still battling to extinguish the fire Wednesday, Hashim said.

He said the contractor for the tanker work had been arrested and all shipbreaking at the yard has been banned while safety standards are reviewed.

A local government official, Zulfiqar Hashmi, said that four more bodies were found from the sea with minor burn injuries. He added that it could not be ascertained whether the workers died inside the oil tanker or as a result of jumping into the sea.

Saad Edhi of the Edhi Foundation said his workers had moved 18 bodies to their morgue in Sohrab Goth, Karachi. “We have also shifted parts of a body to the morgue,” he said.

The fire was still raging, he said, which meant that rescue workers were facing difficulties.

Police registered a case against the owner of the yard to which the vessel was brought for dismantling, Chaudhry Abdul Ghafoor, his manager and the two contractors who had been assigned the task of draining oil from the tanker.

Meanwhile, Balochistan Chief Minister Sanaullah Zehri told the provincial assembly that a high-level committee had been formed to investigate reasons behind the incident.

He said the tragic incident had been discussed in detail at a high-level meeting.

Mr Zehri said he would soon visit Gadani along with members of the investigation committee. The findings of the committee would be shared with members of the legislature, he added.

The Ghadani ship-breaking industry has fallen on hard times recently and employs about 9,000 workers, fewer than in its boom years at the end of the last decade.

Published in Dawn November 3rd, 2016