25th October 2018
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Two bodies were found on July 27 in the debris of a burned-out Pakistani garment factory, once held up as a model of fire safety. About the same time, a Chinese foreman was killed in a fire at a BFC-registered factory in Cambodia
A fire broke out at Gul Ahmed Mills at Landhi near Karachi on July 26, and after several hours was brought under control, with no serious injuries reported, the factory badly damaged and wide reporting in Pakistan of no fatalities. But a search of the rubble on July 27 uncovered the bodies of a crippled watchman, Abdul Qayyum, who had apparently been suffocated and of a colleague who had apparently tried to rescue him.
Gul Ahmed was held up during judicial enquiries into the September 2012 Karachi fire where around 300 were killed as somewhere “that has adopted ‘full protective measures’ and could become model for other factories to follow their example.” It also still claims on its website “it strictly adheres to the Safety, Health & Environment guidelines”
Though the cause of the fire is yet to be determined, the delay in discovering Qayyum and his colleague were missing implies inadequate evacuation and roll-call procedures – and the use of a disabled watchman, if the description is accurate, also implies procedural sloppiness.
Gul Ahmed had sales in 2013 of Rs 30.2 bn ($305 mn), with pre-tax profits of Rs 702 mn ($7.1 mn) after heavy losses in the previous year. The Landhi complex is mainly a spinning and weaving operation, but includes some manufacture of garments and household textiles.
Early in the morning of July 28, Yang Xinsun, a laundry foreman at the Chang Seng garment factory in Phnom Penh was found dead in a bathroom after a fire that damaged the factory had been extinguished. Though no line workers were in the factory at the time of the blaze, the deceased was one of a number of Chinese staff routinely sleeping in the factory. Chang Seng has not been audited often enough recently for its safety records to be on the BFC Transparency database.