15:49 12 September 2012
At least 194 people have died as a result of a huge inferno stemming from a garment factory fire in Karachi, Pakistan.
Coming just hours after 21 died at a factory in Lahore, close to the Indian border, this blaze has been viewed as the worst fire to hit Pakistan's Arabian Sea port and biggest city in decades.
The inferno began on Tuesday evening, forcing workers to jump from four-storey windows to escape the blazing heat.
Outside, the scene was dramatic as relatives of the trapped workers clashed with police and fire crews who held them back.
Karachi fire chief Ehtesham Salim described a grim find in the basement: "We found dozens of people dead in a large room of the factory's basement. It was totally burnt and parts of it were smouldering, which we put out before taking the bodies to hospitals."
In all, provincial health minister Saghir Ahmed confirmed to AFP that "three major hospitals in Karachi have so far received 194 bodies".
At least 65 others are being treated for broken bones after plunging from the windows.
Abdus Salam, a doctor at Karachi's Civil Hospital, described to AFP that the factory appeared to be a fire hazard well before the blaze began, citing a flimsy construction and lack of emergency exits.
"It was packed like a box with little room left for ventilation. There were no emergency exits," Salim said.
"We found people who died of suffocation caused by the highly toxic smoke. They died first and then their bodies were burned by the raging fire," he told the agency.
The factory produced underwear and plastic utensils, meaning that a huge amount of easily ignited fabrics and dangerous chemicals were on the scene.
The cause of the fire is as yet unknown.
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