LAHORE - Rescuers yesterday pulled a teen worker from the rubble of a four-storey factory, at least 50 hours after the disaster struck workers in Sundar.
Crowd cheered as eighteen-year-old Shahid Iqbal was pulled, dazed and dusty, from the rubble of the factory. He was immediately rushed to the Jinnah hospital for treatment.
The teen worker was carried out on a stretcher by a team of rescue workers who had placed a drip into his arm and a support around his neck as he was put into the ambulance. Doctors described the condition of Shahid as “well and safe.”
“Apparently, he was stunned and his eyes blinked in the sunlight. He has minor injuries on his leg,” Lahore district coordination officer told reporters after the discovery. The officers also appreciated the efforts of rescuers for saving the life of a teen. The news is likely to reinvigorate the efforts of rescuers who are also using sniffer dogs to work out if anyone is alive below heavy concrete.
The boy’s astonishing tale of survival came just one day after rescuers pulled alive another two young workers from the debris.
Shahid was rescued by a team, who said he had been buried under the rubble on the first floor. “He was behind a concrete slab and we had to cut through it. And we pulled him out successfully,” a rescue worker said. A police officer said Shahid’s family was notified about the recovery.
“We understand he didn't have any food. He was fully conscious and his condition was stable”.
The search and rescue operation at the collapsed factory was still ongoing.
Rescuers yesterday continued digging through the rubble on the third day, as the death toll in Sundar factory collapse swelled to 38.
A senior official confirmed that at least 103 survivors had so far been pulled from wreckage of the four-storey building that flattened two days ago.
Hundreds of rescuers are at the site, where officials believe, many could be still under the debris. The rescuers were using heavy machinery, diggers, and drills to dismantle tones of debris. Over 500 people including servicemen, district administration officials, rescuers and volunteers were taking part in the operation.
Lahore DCO Muhammad Usman told reporters at the site that more time was needed to complete the search and rescue operations. “Rescuers have to move slowly because it is our priority to avoid further injuries to those still trapped”.
Rescuers managed to remove rubble from the top three floors till yesterday night. Official sources said the clean-up operation was being intensified as hopes for more survivors fade.
A Punjab government official said that they had no information about the exact number of victims. “At least 50 hours have passed since a huge operation was launched at the site. We can’t say anything (about survivors) unless the operation is completed”.
Officials had estimated that more than 200 workers were inside the building when it gave way. At least 13 bodies were pulled from the wreckage yesterday which put the death at 38. Earlier, at least 25 bodies had been recovered by rescue teams.
The officials confirmed the death of factory’s owner yesterday after rescuers recovered his body from the rubble. The discovery of Rana Ashraf’s body removed doubts and speculations about his mysterious missing.
Injured survivors said Ashraf had ignored advice from his contractor and pleas from his workers to stop construction after cracks developed in the building and its pillars following a powerful earthquake last month.
“We drew his attention towards the cracks during his last visit to the factory, but the owner even did not stop construction on the fourth floor,” said Muhammad Ramazan, a 23-year-old victim who was in hospital.
Several survivors were able to guide rescuers by calling relatives and media persons while using their mobile phones. Volunteers of a religious organization were seen distributing food and water bottles among relatives of the victims, who are still sitting on footpaths in cold weather.
Rescuers were seen drilling concrete slabs and cutting steel-pipes to make a way to reach victims. They were removing heavy slabs of concrete with the help of cranes.
A seven-member investigation team is probing into the incident following media reports about flouting building codes and poor oversight by the departments concerned.
The Sundar Industrial Estate, established to encourage local and foreign investment many years ago, houses several factories and industries in the Lahore’s suburb. The rare Industrial Estate is located on a vast area with modern concept of industrial zones.