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At least 289 killed as fire in Pakistani garment factory rages

By Reza Sayah, CNN
updated 1:33 PM EDT, Wed September 12, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: The toll from the fire has risen to 289, a local official says
  • The building could collapse at any time, another official says
  • Dozens of people may still be trapped in the factory's basement
  • Fire officials say they don't yet know the cause of the fire

Editor's note: Read a version of this story in Arabic

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) -- At least 289 people were killed in a fire that swept through a garment factory overnight in the Pakistani port city of Karachi, a local official said Wednesday.

The toll from the fire, which continued to burn Wednesday, is expected to rise, Commissioner Roshan Ali Shaikh, Karachi's top administrative official, said in a phone interview with CNN affiliate Geo TV.

A child is among the dead, and at least 25 people have been injured, said Zakir Khan of the Karachi Fire Department. All the victims were employees of the factory, he said.

Firefighters were trying to bring the blaze under control, Khan said, but their task was made more difficult because they couldn't enter several portions of the weakened building.

Aziz Ahmed, the father of factory worker Asif Aziz who was killed in a blaze in Karachi Wednesday, September 12, 2012, holds his son's photo as he mourns his death. Aziz Ahmed, the father of factory worker Asif Aziz who was killed in a blaze in Karachi Wednesday, September 12, 2012, holds his son's photo as he mourns his death.
Fire engulfs Karachi factory
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Karachi factory blaze kills 289 Karachi factory blaze kills 289

The building might collapse any time because the fire heavily damaged parts of its steel structure, said Mustafa Jamal, a senior government official in Baldia Town, the area of Karachi where the factory is situated.

Dozens of people may be trapped in the basement of the building, according to Khan. An operation is under way to try to rescue them.

Jamal said between 400 and 500 people were in the factory as the fire burned. Several trapped workers jumped from upper floors.

Video broadcast by Geo TV showed large crowds of anxious people outside the smoldering building. And through windows and holes of the factory's scorched outer walls, the footage showed glimpses of flames still flickering within.

Officials say they don't know the cause of the fire.

At least 25 dead in India factory fire

Journalists Nasir Habib in Islamabad and Aamir Iqbal in Peshawar, Pakistan; and CNN's Jethro Mullen in Hong Kong contributed to this report.

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