By ‘Mantoetse Maama
MASERU — Two people died while one was seriously injured when two neighbouring factories, KHY Plastics and Dragon Pak, were gutted by fire yesterday morning.
The deceased are a 60-year-old Chinese male and a 27-year-old Mosotho man who worked for Dragon Pak, while the injured man, a Chinese national, is the manager of KHY Plastics.
Dragon Pak Factory, which employs 60 workers, produces fomo (kaylite) packs, while KHY Plastics has 29 staff. The factories are situated in the Maseru Industrial Area.
According to Dragon Pak manager, Mr Farhan Iqbal, the fire started at around 3am at one of his company’s production machines.
“I was informed by one of the residents at around 3: 45 am, that there was fire at the factory and I should assist by calling the Fire Brigade,” Mr Iqbal said.
I was in Ladybrand where I stay, and came as soon as I could. At around 4:10 am, I found the fire-fighters already here, trying to stop the fire.”
“Around 40 people, comprising workers and residents, were in the compound when the fire started. They all managed to escape, except for two who were caught in the inferno, and died.”
Mr Iqbal said the workers were on nightshift when tragedy struck.
“The machine runs on electricity, but is also connected to gas for pressure purposes. There were about 30 gas-cylinders in the area where the machine is located, and when the machine caught fire, the cylinders exploded, adding to the confusion and destruction,” he said.
According to Mr Iqbal, there was only one machine in operation, and a limited number of staff on duty on the fateful night.
“All the machines and raw material for both factories, as well as six vehicles, were burned. The damage caused is estimated at around M10 million,” he said.
One of the Dragon Pak employees, Sechaba Matake, who was on duty on the night in question, said when the fire started, the workers tried to put it out but to no avail.
“When we saw the fire, we tried to stop it using fire-extinguishers that we had, but it simply went out of control. We had to rush out of the factory because the fire was spreading fast,” Mr Matake said.
“This tragedy has come as a shock to us because we have not only lost our jobs but also a colleague.”
Mr Moabi Molelo, who works for KHY Plastics, said there were seven employees on duty on the night of the fire.
“We were only seven on duty and all of us managed to get away, except our manager, who was injured while trying to escape. He is currently in hospital where he is being treated,” Mr Molelo said.
The police at the scene, meanwhile, would not comment on the fire and referred all inquiries to the Lesotho Mounted Police Service Spokesperson Senior Inspector Lebona Mohloboli, who was not immediately available for comment.
Meanwhile, neighbouring factories, Pressure Garment and Super Knitting, had to shut down indefinitely yesterday to ensure the safety of their employees.
“We are actually happy that we were released from duty as we were scared that the fire might catch other buildings as it has been spreading,” said an employee who refused to be named.
“We would not mind even if the management deducts our salaries for this because it is for our own safety.”