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Double factory blazes in Pakistan kill 39

KARACHI, Pakistan — Factory blazes in two of Pakistan's major cities killed 39 people and injured dozens more on Tuesday, including some who leapt from the burning buildings to escape the flames.

First a fire swept through a shoe factory in the eastern city of Lahore, killing 25 people, said senior police officer Multan Khan.

Three people were also injured in the blaze, Khan said. Some of the people died from suffocation while others burned alive when the flames ripped through chemicals used to make the shoes and stored in the building, he said.

The fire erupted when people in the building were trying to start their generator after the electricity went out. Sparks from the generator made contact with the chemicals, igniting the blaze.

Pakistan faces widespread blackouts, and many people use generators to provide electricity for their houses or to run businesses. The fire is likely to add to public outrage over the government's failure to provide sufficient power.

Firefighters broke holes in the solid brick walled buildings to reach victims inside. At the morgue, bodies were lined up on a hallway floor, covered with white sheets.

One of the workers, Muhammad Shabbir, said he had been working at the factory for six months along with his cousin. He said all the chemicals and the generator were located in the garage, which was also the only way out of the building. When the fire ignited, there was no way out. Shabbir said he had just gone outside the factory when the fire started but his cousin was severely burned and died at the hospital.

Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf in a statement expressed his shock and grief over the deaths.

Many people in Lahore have set up shoe factories at homes and in residential areas. Many of the factories are ill-equipped and often lack modern fire safety equipment such as fire extinguishers or sprinklers.

"The main reason of victims' death most probably is because the front was blocked. The people went to the back side of the building but there was no access, so we had to made forceful entries and ... rescue the people," said Numan Noor, a firefighter on the scene.

The second blaze erupted in the southern port city of Karachi, which is considered the country's economic heart.

At least 14 people were killed and more than 40 injured when a fire broke out at a garment factory, said an official at the Civilian Hospital in Karachi, Nazir Abbasi. All were workers at the factory.

Many of the workers were injured when they jumped from the burning building, said another doctor at the hospital, Karar Abbasi.

An injured factory worker Mohammad Ilyas, speaking at the hospital, said he was working along with roughly 50 other men and women on one of the floors when suddenly a fireball came from the staircase.

"I jumped from my seat as did others and rushed toward the windows but iron bars on the windows barred us from escaping. Some of us quickly took tools and machines to break the iron bars," he said. "That was how we managed to jump out of the windows down to the ground floor."

His leg was injured in the fall.

Pakistani television showed pictures of what appeared to be a three-story building in Karachi with flames leaping from the top-floor windows and smoke billowing into the night sky. Firefighters could be seen pounding on the metal grates covering some of the windows and pulling smoke-covered bodies from the windows.

Associated Press writers Zarar Khan and Rebecca Santana in Islamabad contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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