KARACHI, Pakistan

Hundreds dead in fires at two clothing factories

Fires at two clothing factories in Pakistan left 283 people dead – many trapped behind locked doors and barred windows – tragedies that highlight workplace perils in a country where many buildings lack basic safety equipment and owners often bribe officials to ignore the violations.

The blazes broke out Tuesday night at a garment factory in the southern port city of Karachi and a shoe manufacturer in the eastern city of Lahore. At least 258 people died in the fire in Karachi, where rescue workers were still searching Wednesday for bodies in the charred building. Another 25 perished in Lahore.

Panicked workers in Karachi had only one way out since the factory’s owner had locked all the other exit doors in response to a recent theft, officials said. Many victims suffocated in the smoke-filled basement.

“The owner of the factory should also be burned to death the way our dear ones have died in a miserable condition,” said Nizam-ud-Din, whose nephew was killed in the fire.

The fire started when a boiler exploded and the flames ignited chemicals that were stored in the factory.

PRAGUE, Czech Republic

Death toll mounts from liquor laced with methanol

At least 19 people are dead and 24 others hospitalized. Some of them have been blinded, while others have been induced into comas in the hope that doctors can save them.

All had drunk cheap vodka and rum laced with methanol, a toxic substance used to stretch alcohol on the black market and guarantee high profits for manufacturers.

The Czech Republic announced emergency measures Wednesday as the death toll from the methanol poisoning mounted, including two women ages 28 and 21. Markets were banned from selling spirits with more than 30 percent alcohol content and police raided outlets nationwide.

Prime Minister Petr Necas called on all Czechs to refrain from drinking “any alcohol whose origin is uncertain.” Senior police official Vaclav Kucera said two suspects have been arrested.

MOSCOW

Pussy Riot sentences too harsh, prime minister says

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev Wednesday criticized as “too hard” last month’s sentencing of three members of punk rock band Pussy Riot to two years each in jail for staging a public punk prayer against President Vladimir Putin.

Medvedev said he was offended by the performance, but said probation would have been a more-than-sufficient punishment.

A court is scheduled to hear an appeal Oct. 1 against the verdict on charges of hooliganism and spreading religious hate.