At least 12 killed, dozens feared trapped as blast hits oil tanker in Pakistan

A rescue worker moves a man who was injured after an explosion at the Gadani ship-breaking yard, at a hospital in Karachi, Pakistan, November 1, 2016. © Akhtar Soomro
At least twelve workers have been killed in a series of explosions triggered by a blaze at the Gadani shipbreaking yard in Pakistan. Some workers may reportedly be trapped inside the yard, with the fire still raging.

Trade union officials said the death toll could rise.  

Things are really bad here,” trade union president Basheer Mehmoodani told Reuters by telephone.

“There's an unclear number of workers said to be trapped in the burning ship,” he added.

It is not clear what caused the explosion and the fire.

Some 58 workers have been injured in the blast, Reuters reported citing Zulfiqar Bokhari, a senior administrative official in the area.

The fire started in a dismantled oil tanker that was stationed in the yard, according to DawnNews. Eight explosions occurred inside the oil tanker while the workers were performing gas welding work, and more explosions are now feared due to the fire.

Rescue teams from Balochistan’s Karachi and Hub districts have rushed to the scene, along with fire fighters.

However, as Pakistan Today reports, only a single fire engine is currently trying to extinguish the fire and has been unsuccessful in doing so thus far.

“The blaze is still raging and there is nothing fire-fighters can do except to wait for it to die out as they lack foam required to douse it,” Mansoor said.

With 132 ship-breaking plots, the Gadani shipbreaking yard is considered to be the world’s third largest enterprise of its kind after Alang in India and Chittagong in Bangladesh.

It is located some 50 kilometers (31 miles) northwest of Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi, and spans ten kilometers (6.2-mile) of beachfront.

An average of 100 ships is torn down in Gadani every year producing around one million tons of steel sold mostly domestically to the construction sector in Pakistan.

Accidents are not a rarity at Gadani, as work conditions at the yard are poor and many workers are reportedly unregistered migrant laborers.