The death toll from the blast at Gaddani ship-breaking yard mounted to 18, as more bodies were recovered from the site late on Tuesday, officials said.
More than 50 laborers were also injured on Tuesday after a huge blast ripped through an oil tanker at the ship-breaking yard, according to local officials. Many were reported trapped inside the vessel.
The leader of a ship-breaking workers union said fire had engulfed the vessel moored in Gaddani, 45 km (28 miles) northwest of the port city of Karachi.
“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 2 km (one mile) away.
The blast occurred in the fuel tank of the ship, which was still on fire, he said.
Firefighters from Karachi and from the air force and navy were attempting to put out the blaze, he said.
Mansoor said the firefighters would have to wait for the fire to die out “as they lack the foam required douse it.”
Labourers in Gaddani often work in poor conditions without basic protective gear.
The Gaddani ship-breaking industry has fallen on hard times recently and employs about 9,000 workers, fewer than in its boom years at the end of the last decade.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expressed his condolences with the families of those who lost their lives in the explosion at the Gaddani ship-breaking yard and has ordered an inquiry into the accident.
The prime minister has also ordered to expedite the rescue operation to recover those stuck at the site of the accident.
According to the Prime Minister House spokesman the prime minister has ordered the relevant officials to use all resources available to control the fire and to provide medical attention to all those injured in the incident.