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Death toll from explosion and fire at Pakistan shipbreaking yard reaches 26

08 November 2016

On November 6, a local government official told agencies that the total killed in the November 1 explosion and fire on board a oil tanker being cut up at the Gadani ship-breaking yard near Karachi had reached 26, with more than 50 others wounded. The Pakistani Government has closed the yard pending an inquiry.

Stock image
Stock image

The incident was apparently caused by the explosion of a gas cylinder, which started a fire and a series of explosions in the oil tanker at the Gadani yard, which is in the south-western province of Balochistan.

A high-level committee formed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to investigate the causes of the fire held its first meeting in Karachi on November 6 and said it would finalise a report within a week. The government is also negotiating compensation payments with relatives of the dead and injured.

The country’s National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) has organised a number of protests since the incident, calling for increased workplace safety at the yard and across Pakistani industry.
NTUF general secretary Nasir Mansoor called for an end to the contract (Thekedari) system of employing staff at the yard and demanded authorities ensure safe working conditions there.

Mansoor said India’s ship-breaking industry used to have tragedies worse than those in Pakistan, but that country had managed to bring down the number of incidents by introducing a code and imposing rules and regulations.

The NTUF said that at the time of the incident, around 12,000 people were working at the yard in Gadani. None received Employees Old Age Benefits Institution (EOBI) cover, insurance or any social security, and 800 workers had lost their lives in accidents at the site since 1968.

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has said it will compile a report about the accident. According to an HRCP fact-finding committee which visited Gadani after the incident, there is no record of the exact number of people working at the yard at the time of explosion.

The entry sheets, according to some officials present at the site, is not available as the office had been “locked for outsiders” soon after the incident.

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