In a rapidly rising death toll, at least 246 people suffocated or burned to death in a pair of factory fires in Pakistan Tuesday night. Survivors say they faced barred windows and blocked exits when trying to escape the flames.
The fires – in a clothing factory in the southern port city of Karachi and a shoe factory in the city of Lahore – quickly spread through both buildings, which lacked basic safety equipment. Many of those trapped died; dozens more suffered burns, smoke inhalation and injuries from jumping from windows to escape the flames.
Pakistani authorities vowed to investigate the factory owners for negligence. But these are not isolated incidents, and they point to a wider tragedy: endemic corruption in Pakistan. The country has well-developed industrial safety codes, but enforcement is notoriously lax as inspectors and other government officials routinely accept bribes to ignore violations. Frequently, people die because of this.
In 1911, New York City's Triangle Shirtwaist fire triggered a wave of workplace safety reforms. If anything good can come from these twin tragedies in Pakistan, it must be that public outrage forces the authorities to take on the corruption that regularly kills people.
Learn more: Watch this short documentary about the historic factory fire that changed the course of worker safety in the US, and share with everyone you know:
Sources: BBC, AP, Khaleej Times, Reuters, Dawn, WageIndicator Foundation