LAHORE • Rescue crews resumed digging through the rubble of a collapsed factory in Pakistan yesterday as officials said they expected to find at least two dozen more bodies, with the death toll standing at 23.
More than 100 survivors have already been pulled from the debris of the four-storey Rajput Polyester polythene bag factory near the Punjab provincial capital of Lahore after it came crashing down on Wednesday evening, trapping dozens of people inside.
But hopes were fading for anyone left alive as rescuers scrabbled through the debris.
"We have recovered up to 23 bodies so far. There are fewer chances of finding more injured under the rubble, but we are looking for dead bodies," Mr Arshad Zia, head of rescue services in Punjab, said.
Soldiers and rescuers were preparing to clear the rubble in front of the factory and move towards the rear of the building, where they fear they will discover more victims.
"We expect to find at least 25 more bodies in that part of the factory," Mr Zia said.
He said that at least 400 rescue workers were involved, and that efforts intensified as time was running out to find survivors.
It was unclear how many people were in the building when it collapsed or how many may still be trapped, but officials have said at least 150 people were in the factory when it came down.
There was still no clarity on what caused the collapse of the multi-storey building, and officials said the focus, for now, was on the rescue operation.
Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has said the factory may have suffered structural damage in the Oct 26 quake which killed almost 400 people across Pakistan and Afghanistan. Provincial Labour Minister Raja Ashfaq Sarwar said that an enquiry into the collapse "is being conducted and we will probe all angles", with a report to be submitted within two weeks.
Human rights activists accused the government of continued negligence in enforcing safety and construction codes.
"Workers are being killed for their work," said Mr Khalid Mahmood, a labour rights activist based in Lahore. "These incidents are happening because there is no factory inspection being done in real terms all over Pakistan. There is no political will in government to implement factory inspection and other labour laws."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NEW YORK TIMES