Lahore: Kalsoom Bibi wails and waits as rescuers dig and drill concrete blocks to reach survivors under rubble, more than 24 hours after a four-storey factory collapsed in Lahore’s Sundar neighbourhood. The death toll today swelled to 24 as four more bodies were pulled out of the debris. More than 110 workers are in hospitals and some are in very serious condition.

Authorities believe the “search and rescue operations” will take another day or two to complete since the building located on a four-canal piece of land collapsed fully. Hundreds of rescuers are working at the site, where officials say, many are still trapped. Outside the factory, Kalsoom is among the relatives of dozens of victims who are waiting for information about their loved ones, trapped under heavy concrete slabs. “Please, oh my Allah, please, save my son, I am a poor, give him a life,” prays mother of Naveed Hassan, an eighteen-year-old boy, said to be among those trapped under the debris.

Kalsoom told The Nation that her son joined the factory job just one day before the tragedy struck the workers. “Had I know about it (factory collapse), I would not send him to work. He was (present) with me at home one day before the disaster.” At least 30 of Naveed’s relatives arrived at the factory from their village – Kharaiper – situated near Ganda Singh Wala in Kasur district, a few hours after the factory collapsed.

They and other family members of dozens of victims were seen sitting on greenbelts and footpaths while waiting impatiently. “Is there any list? Can anybody tell me about my nephew – Naveed,” asked a 60-year-old woman as she walked alongside a long line of men on the greenbelt in front of the factory.

Charity workers were seen distributing food and water bottles among relative of the victims, who were sitting on footpaths in cold weather. Muhammad Yaqoob said he didn’t know what happened to his elder brother, Dawood Iqbal, a 45-year-old technician at the shopping-bags-manufacturing unit.

“The factory management contacted Dawood just three days earlier. They asked him to come and install 20 new machines. The building collapsed a few hours after the new machinery was placed inside” Yaqoob said. The officials working on the site have no information about the exact number of victims. The injured were being shifted to hospitals and the bodies to the morgue and that’s all.

No government official was available outside the factory to comfort or take care of victims’ family members. Also, lack of coordination between government departments multiplied the miseries of the poor who just wanted to know about their loved ones. The night the Punjab Chief Minister visited the site, everybody was there from Lahore Commissioner to provincial ministers and politicians.

A spokesperson for the Rescue-1122 late night said that at least 24 bodies were pulled out of the debris and more than 100 injured were shifted to hospitals. “The search and rescue operation is still ongoing.” While requesting anonymity an official said that according to the duty register he saw the attendance of at least 170 workers on the day the incident took place.

A senior official said the rescue operation would take at least one or two day days more to complete because rescuers are digging very slowly and carefully. Rescuers were seen drilling concrete slabs and cutting steel-pipes to make a way to reach victims. They were removing heavy slabs of concrete with the help of two cranes. “Rescue teams, led by army, are also digging a tunnel to get to the trapped,” a rescue official said.

The rescuers lost contact with at least six trapped workers who were using mobile phones to speak to the outside world. Efforts were underway to pull them out by digging a tunnel. Almost all the factory administration officials are among the victims. The Sundar Industrial Estate, established to encourage local and foreign investment many years ago, houses several factories and industries in the Lahore’s suburb. The rare Industrial Estate is located on a vast area with modern concept of industrial zones.