A few more exits, accessible stairways and clearly signposted escape routes: a couple of changes would have been enough to save many lives in the fire that destroyed the Ali Enterprises textile factory on 11 September 2012 in Karachi, Pakistan. Inadequate fire safety measures at the company, a supplier for the German clothes retailer KiK, led to the agonizing deaths of 260 factory workers in the blaze. This is shown by a new computer simulation from Goldsmiths, University of London's Forensic Architecture project. The simulation has now been submitted to the Regional Court in Dortmund, Germany, where legal action against KiK is ongoing. Since March 2015 the Court has been examining a civil claim against KiK filed by four Pakistanis – one survivor and three relatives of workers killed in the fire – with support from ECCHR and medico international.
The factory building, which is located in Karachi, lies on the border of the Sindh Industrial Trading Estate next to the Masroor Pakistan Air Force base. Drawing from satellite imagery we are able to situate the building within its urban context and determine its key dimensions. Using aligned videos and stills we have been able to visualize key architectural elements in the context of the fire. Videos of people escaping from the building align with written testimonies to tell the story of the progression of the fire and the path of those inside.
Images of the building's facade give indications of the proportionality of the structure so that it can be scrutinized against relevant building codes. Witness sketches provide layouts for floor plans and show us the configuration of building and the way that it was used from day to day. By aligning key images within the three dimensional model, we have also been able to establish the internal layout of the building.