“Things are really bad here,” union president Basheer Mehmoodani told Reuters by telephone. “There’s an unclear number of workers said to be trapped in the burning ship.”
Nasir Mansoor, a representative of the National Trade Union Federation of Pakistan, said the explosion sent pieces of metal flying up to two kilometres (one mile) away.
The accident happened Tuesday morning when a welder hit a fuel tank leading to a massive explosion and subsequent blaze. While there are now 21 confirmed dead, the eventual death toll could hit triple figures with many unaccounted for inside the hull of the ship and a number of the 60 workers sent to hospital deemed to have such severe burns that they are unlikely to survive.
The ship, which burned for four days, was carrying 132 metric tons furnace oil, 1,100 tons of sludge, 27 metric tons of diesel and 30,000 metric tons of lubricants, investigators have found.
“A huge quantity of lubricants smuggled by the shipowner had caught fire due to mishandling of work managers,” ports and shipping Minister Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo told The Express Tribune.
“According to the Customs rules and regulations, decommissioned vessels are only allowed to carry a fixed quantity of oil required for their voyage from a port of departure to Gadani shipbreaking yard in Pakistan,” he added.
A welder was working on a gas cylinder on the beached ship when the explosion occurred
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