The death toll from explosions and fire on a decommissioned oil tanker at a ship-breaking yard in Pakistan’s Balochistan province rose to 20 and officials say the casualty figure could go up if the 25 to 30 missing workers are not found. Firefighters belonging to the Pakistan Navy and other services were still trying to douse out the fire which broke out on the tanker at the Gadani ship-breaking yard after a series of explosions took place on it yesterday morning. The 22,000-tonne oil tanker was tugged at the ship-breaking yard some 10-days ago but work on dismantling it began yesterday when the tragedy occurred in which around 60 workers have been injured and shifted to hospitals while 25 to 30 are feared missing. A senior labour official confirmed that some 250 labourers had signed on for the dismantling operation.
Ship Breaking Mazdoor Union president Bashir Mehmoodani told PTI the death toll could rise if the missing workers were
not found. “The tanker is still on fire and there have been several explosions in it since Tuesday. Apparently there was some stored oil remaining in it as well,” he said. Mehmoodani said that safety measures for workers at the ship-breaking yard were more or less zero and they had been protesting over this for years now.
“Labourers here are treated worse than animals. I demand that the government hold a proper inquiry and take action against those who run this shipyard and the owners of the oil tanker,” he said. A top government official said that around 20 dead bodies had been recovered so far from the oil tanker and sea as many of the workers jumped into the open sea to save their lives.
“Many of the labourers have been rescued and are safe now. But some are still missing maybe around 20,” he added. Labour unions in Pakistan generally complain about lack of safety and health measures at worksites and in September, 2012 a fire broke out at a garments factory in Karachi’s Baldia town in which around 257 people were killed and at least 600 injured.