16 Dead in Shipbreaking Yard Blast
On Tuesday, at least 16 workers were killed and 58 wounded in an explosion at the Gadani shipbreaking yard near Karachi, Pakistan.
A fuel tank exploded inside of a tanker that was being scrapped on the beaches at Gadani, throwing debris for long distances and sending a plume of smoke into the air. The tanker continued to burn after the explosion and an unknown number of workers remained trapped inside – potentially as many as several dozen, according to media reports.
Police official Mohammad Abdullah told a reporter for the New York Times that several laborers jumped over the side of the tanker and into the sea in order to escape the fire. He said that injured survivors were being treated at a hospital in Karachi.
A rescue worker from Pakistani ambulance service Edhi told the AP that first responders had retrieved many bodies from the water – along with a number of body parts, suggesting that more casualties may remain to be found.
Nasir Mansoor, a representative of the National Trade Union Federation of Pakistan, said that firefighters from Karachi and from the air force and navy were attempting to put out the blaze. However, he said that he believed the firefighters would have to wait for the fire to die out "as they lack the foam required douse it."
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expressed his condolences to the families of the victims in a statement, and called on responders to move quickly to rescue any workers trapped within the tanker.
Accidents and injuries are common in the shipbreaking facilities of South Asia, where vessels are driven up onto the beach and dismantled under lightly regulated working conditions. As of 2012, wages at Gadani averaged about $4 per day, according to a Reuters report.
Gadani is the world's third largest shipbreaking facility, with over 130 yards along a six-mile stretch of beachfront. It used to be the world's leading shipbreaker, but it has lost ground to Alang, India and Chittagong, Bangladesh. It is still an industrially important site for Pakistan, which derives about one million tonnes of steel a year from the yard – about a third of its domestic requirement