Pakistani officials confirmed that more than 280 people died after a fire broke out in a garment factory in Karachi on Tuesday—the same day that at least 25 people died in a shoe factory fire in Lahore. Witnesses said the Karachi building was still smoldering on Wednesday as officials said 40 firefighting vehicles were needed to tackle the fire. The Karachi fire chief said the victims died from smoke inhalation and suffocation, while others were injured after attempting to escape the fire by jumping from the building. Officials said the windows of the factory were blocked by metal grilles and were also full of combustible materials, including chemicals and piles of clothing. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
Besides the metal grilles on the windows, doors were locked shut, there were no fire exits, no fire alarms, no sprinklers, and workers who complained were terminated.
This brings to mind the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in New York City in 1911 when 146 garment workers, died from the fire, smoke inhalation, or falling to their deaths. The youngest was just 11 years old.
The impacts of that tragedy are still felt to this day, as it led to legislation requiring improved factory safety standards and helped spur the growth of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union, which fought for better working conditions for sweatshop workers.
Last year marked the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, and with it a century of reforms thanks to labor pioneers and safety advocates.
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