KARACHI: At least 17 workers were killed and more than 60 injured on Tuesday after at least two blasts ripped through an oil tanker at a ship-breaking yard, trapping others inside the vessel, local officials said.
Another explosion was heard on Wednesday as the firefighters struggled to put out the fire completely even today. Many workers are still trapped inside the vessel.
The leader of a ship-breaking workers union said the fire had engulfed the vessel moored in Gadani, 45km (28 miles) north-west of the port city of Karachi.
“Things are really bad here,” union president Basheer Mehmoodani said and added, “There’s an unclear number of workers said to be trapped in the burning ship.”
At least 17 people were killed in the blasts, said Zulfiqar Bokhari, a senior administrative official in the area.
Nasir Mansoor, a representative of the National Trade Union Federation of Pakistan, said the explosions sent pieces of metal flying up to two kilometres (one mile) away.
The blasts occurred in the fuel tank of the ship, which was still on fire till the last updates injuring two rescue officials.
Later firefighters from Karachi and from the air force and navy were attempting to put out the blaze which was almost controlled by the time this story was being published.
An eyewitness said the firefighters had to wait for the fire to die out as they lack the foam required douse it. Labourers in the ship breaking industry often work in poor conditions without basic protective gear.
The Gaddani 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.