Factory collapse in Pakistan kills 9, traps dozens

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By ASIF SHAHZAD, Associated Press

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Rescue workers struggled to reach dozens of people trapped in the rubble of a factory that collapsed in an eastern Pakistani city Monday, killing at least nine, officials said.

The factory, which manufactured medicine, was set up illegally in a residential area of Lahore. It caved in after several gas cylinders inside exploded, said the city's deputy commissioner, Ahad Cheema. Authorities had previously closed the factory three times, but each time it reopened.

The factory was owned by a local politician, who used his influence to keep it open despite complaints from neighbors, said local resident Munawar Ali.

Powerful Pakistanis often use their influence to circumvent the law and extract illegal profits.

Records indicate there were around 60 people, including women and children, inside the factory when it collapsed, said Rizwan Naseer, head of the state-run rescue service in Punjab province, of which Lahore is the capital.

The nine dead people who were pulled out included five women, three boys and one adult man, said Naseer. Authorities rescued 11 people, and several others managed to extricate themselves. At least 32 people were still believed to be trapped, he said.

Rescue workers were having a difficult time digging out others under the rubble because the narrow streets around the factory made it hard to get heavy machinery to the site, said Naseer.

A young girl, Shakila Iqrar, wept at the scene as she told reporters that her cousin and older sister were trapped under the huge slabs of concrete.

"There were voices coming from inside, but now they are not coming," said Iqrar. "I want to ask to all of you to please get them out quickly."

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