The death toll from a pair of devastating factory fires that broke out in Pakistan's two biggest cities rose on Wednesday to 283 people, many of whom perished because they were unable to escape buildings that lacked emergency exits and basic safety equipment such as alarms and sprinklers.
The horrific toll highlights the atrocious state of industrial safety in Pakistan, where many factories are set up illegally in the country's densely populated cities, and owners often pay officials bribes to ignore safety violations.
The more deadly of the two blazes, which both erupted on Tuesday night, was at a garment factory in the southern city of Karachi, the country's economic heart.
The death toll there rose to 258 people Wednesday, as firefighters battled the flames for hours, said senior government official Roshan Ali Sheikh. He said earlier that 289 people died, but this figure double counted some of the deaths.
The fire was one of the worst industrial accidents in Pakistan's 65-year history, and Sheikh said the death toll could still rise because rescue workers were still pulling bodies out from the site in Karachi.
Most of the deaths were caused by suffocation as people caught in the basement were unable to escape when it filled with smoke, said the top firefighter in Karachi, Ehtisham-ud-Din.
The building only had one accessible exit, and all the other doors were locked, said Sheikh.
"It is a criminal act to lock the emergency exit doors, and we are trying to know who did it, and why?" Sheikh said.