The death toll from a pair of devastating factory fires that broke out in Pakistan's two biggest cities rose to 216 people today, many of whom perished because they were unable to escape buildings that lacked emergency exits and basic safety equipment. The more deadly blaze was at a garment factory in Karachi, the country's economic heart. The death toll from that fire rose to 191, most of which were caused by suffocation as people caught in the basement were unable to escape when it filled with smoke, firefighters said.
There were no fire exits, and the doors leading out of the basement were locked, said a firefighter. It's unclear what caused the fire. "I jumped from my seat as did others and rushed toward the windows, but iron bars on the windows barred us from escaping," one worker said. "Some of us quickly took tools and machines to break the iron bars. That was how we managed to jump out." Such safety issues are common in Pakistan, where many factories are set up illegally in the country's densely populated cities. (Read more Pakistan stories.)