South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

Rescue workers recover a body amid rubble of a factory that collapsed in Lahore, Pakistan. Photograph: Rahat Dar/EPA

At least 18 people were killed and 51 injured when the roof of a factory collapsed near the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore on Wednesday, officials said.

The incident comes less than two weeks after a powerful 7.5-magnitude earthquake ripped across Afghanistan and Pakistan, killing nearly 390 people, levelling thousands of homes and causing structural damage to major buildings.

“We have recovered 18 dead bodies and more than 70 people alive, 51 of them are injured and have been taken to hospitals,” said Mohammad Usman, the top administration official in Lahore who was coordinating the response to the disaster in the city, the capital of Punjab province.

“Rescue work is ongoing,” he said as teams of rescuers, police and soldiers worked through the night under lights searching for survivors beneath the rubble of the four-storey factory.

The army said it was deploying specialist search teams and engineers to help the rescue effort.

The collapse occurred at a Rajput Polyester plastic bag factory in the Sundar industrial estate around 30 miles (45km) south-west of the city centre.

Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif said it was possible the building had been damaged after the 26 October earthquake. “I have heard about the earthquake affecting the building but according to labourers the owner continued to build an extension.”

Doctor Zia Ullah of Jinnah hospital where some injured were taken said most were young workers, with many suffering head injuries and fractured limbs.

Pakistan has a poor safety record in the construction and maintenance of buildings. In 2014 a mosque collapsed in the same city, killing at least 24 people.

More than 200 people lost their lives to collapsed roofs following torrential rainfall and flooding in 2014.

In 2012 more than 255 workers were killed when a fire tore through a clothing factory in Karachi, one of the deadliest industrial accidents in Pakistani history. A judicial probe into the blaze was damning, pointing to a lack of emergency exits, poor safety training of workers, the packing in of machinery and the failure of government inspectors to spot any of these faults. A murder case was registered against the factory owners but has not come to trial.