Whether the original explosion was caused by a Sui Gas blast or the bursting of a boiler, the indisputable facts are that the explosion caused the entire factory in which it occurred to collapse, and 19 people died under the debris. The three-storey factory, in Hassan Town on Lahore’s Multan Road, made veterinary medicines, and those killed included women and children. The women working in the factory were packagers. Perhaps the most noticeable feature of the event itself was the absence of any disaster management mechanism, even though so many have been set up. It appears that those organizations have been set up to deal with annual floods, which can be predicted well in advance, not such sudden and unexpected disasters in urban areas.

Another aspect that needs consideration is why the factory was allowed to operate in an urban residential area anyhow. The disaster may well prove an object lesson in the need for inspection, which was ended several years ago, but it could also provide an argument against inspection as it was, because inspectors were more insistent on getting paid than on preventing abuses, with the result that the disaster would have probably taken place despite inspection. At the same time, factories are not supposed to operate in residential areas not just because such disasters are more frequent among factories, but also because rescuers face grave difficulties in making their way to the scene of a disaster through the detritus of a residential area. Because it was a crowded area, the collapse of two neighbouring houses should have come as no surprise. That the employees were mostly women and children not only magnified the disaster, but also threw a sinister light on the lack of inspection. The factory owners’ desire to turn a quick buck would have contributed to the disaster.

The Punjab government must go after the factory owners with a vengeance, but the real aim should be to stop any future disasters from occurring. That would only be possible by a strict prevention of the operation of illegal factories, and the prevention of illegal practices in legally operating factories. Apart from working to prevent a recurrence, the government must also ensure that it properly understands what went wrong, especially what caused the original explosion. It must also examine what was its response like, with a view to establishing an organization which can respond in a more timely fashion. There is need to investigate how a factory that had been sealed three times was being allowed to operate. One would not rule out political interference, officials’ complicity and graft or sheer negligence being the causes.