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 258 factory workers in the blaze. This is shown by a computer simulation from Goldsmiths, University of London’s Forensic Architecture project.
The simulation was submitted to the Regional Court in Dortmund, Germany. From March 2015, the Court examined 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. In January 2019, the Court in Dortmund dismissed the lawsuit found that the claims were statute barred. You can find more information on the case here.
In cooperation with Forensic Architecture, a research project of the Faculty of Progressive Architecture and Media Research at Goldsmiths College London, ECCHR has created a 3D digital simulation of the fire at Ali Enterprises. The simulation reconstructs the technical details of the fire safety precautions as well as the circumstances and consequences of the fire.
Forensic Architecture creates i.a. for courts proof data as interactive maps, movies and animations. The aim of the models and installations of FA is to reverse the foresight in identifying and presenting grievances and political contexts so that independent organizations can use them. Recently, FA published a project with Amnesty International about Saydnaya Prison in Syria, where prisoners are systematically tortured. Together with coworkers of the ECCHR, FA reconstructed in 2014 in a computer animation a drone attack in Pakistan.
Forensic Architecture produced a court-martial 3D video simulation of the fire process at Ali Enterprises for the ECCHR and medico international project. The simulation is based on government reports, satellite photos of the factory building and “normal” photos of the building, as well as testimonies that ECCHR has researched and documented in Pakistan. Forensic Architecture also used analyzes by fire experts and architects from Germany and Pakistan for the simulation.
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 were 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 could be scrutinized against relevant building codes. Witness sketches provided 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.