At least 20 people are reported dead in the collapse of a plastic bag factory under construction in the Pakistani city of Lahore, with 100 survivors rescued and search operations underway to try to find more people still alive in the rubble.
Media reports said up to 200 people were working inside the multi-story factory of the Rajput Polyester bag factory when it collapsed Nov. 4.
A spokesman for a local social welfare organization, which sent 100 rescue workers and 50 ambulances to the scene, told Plastics News that the collapse may be linked to damage the building suffered in a 7.5 magnitude earthquake that hit parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan last month.
“Cracks occurred in the factory building after the earthquake in late October that ripped across Afghanistan and Pakistan, leveling thousands of homes and causing structural damages to major buildings of the region,” said Younas Bhatti, public relations officer for the Lahore office of the Edhi Foundation.
“The dilapidated structure caved in due to vibration caused by the heavy equipment used in construction nearby,” he said.
BBC reported from the scene that two floors of the building were under being used as a factory to make plastic bags for packing 50-kilogram sacks of sugar, rice and other staples, with construction ongoing on other floors.
Reports said many workers were sleeping on the third floor when the building collapsed, and that several children were employed and resided there.
The building had been declared dangerous and while the owner had asked the workers to vacate the area they had sought some time to relocate, other media reported.
Media reports said that the owner was killed in the collapse.
Rescue operations are ongoing as teams of emergency workers, police and soldiers worked through the night to search for survivors.
“The rescuers are now trying to make holes in the rubble to send food items to the workers trapped under the rubble of [the] four-floor building,” Bhatti said, adding that the foundation received a call at 5 p.m. Nov. 4 to send 20 vehicles to the scene to help clear debris.
Pakistan has a poor safety record in the construction and maintenance of buildings. 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.
The plastic bag factory is in the Sundar Industrial Estate, which has 702 plots spread over 1,179 acres, about 25 miles from the center of Lahore.