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9 dead, 59 wounded in Pakistan ship-breaking accident

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At least nine people were killed and 59 wounded Tuesday when a gas cylinder exploded and started a fire inside an oil tanker being broken up for scrap in southern Pakistan, officials said.

The accident happened at the Gadani shipbreaking yard in the southwestern province of Balochistan, some 50 kilometres (30 miles) west of Karachi.

“A gas cylinder explosion caused a huge fire in the ship which was being dismantled,” Balochistan Home Secretary Akbar Harifal said, ruling out a deliberate attack.

Local government official Zulfiqar Hashmi said: “At least nine labourers were killed and 59 others were wounded”.

The fire was still ablaze and there was not enough equipment to extinguish it, he added.

“We have requested Pakistan Navy and Marine Security Agency to help us extinguish the fire,” Hashmi said.

TV footage showed a thick plume of black smoke rising from the ship, as local rescue workers rushed to the scene.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expressed his “deep grief and sorrow” over the incident, according to a statement by his office.

Industrial accidents are common in Pakistan with workplaces often forgoing basic safety measures and equipment in the absence of legislation to protect labourers.

A devastating fire at a textile factory in Karachi killed 255 people in 2012.

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