LAHORE: At least seven people were burnt to death and over a dozen injured when a fire swept through the labour quarters of a construction company working on the Lahore Orange Line Metro Train (OLMT) project.
The blaze started in the labour quarters of the Habib Construction Services (HCS), a private firm working on the Chaburji-Dera Gujjran section of OLMT, according to residents. The fire broke out on the second floor of a building used as labour quarters in the Mahmood Booti area.
“The blaze engulfed the entire floor within a few minutes, leaving dozens of labourers no time to evacuate,” said one witness. “Two
labourers died when they jumped off the building in a desperate attempt to save their lives.”
The Rescue 1122 removed seven bodies from the site which could not be immediately identified. Rescuers also shifted 14 injured labourers to nearby Kot Khawaja Saeed and Shalimar hospitals where three of them were said to be in a critical condition. According to rescuers, most of the victims are between 15-18 years of age and belonged to South Punjab.
OLMT Steering Committee Chairman Khawaja Ahmad Hassaan called it a ‘very unfortunate incident’. “Initial investigations suggest the fire ignited by a gas cylinder blast,” he told The Express Tribune. “The flames were fed clothes and quilts on the floor.”
The building was equipped with a proper fire safety system, complete with fire extinguishers and other fire-fighting equipment, but the conflagration spread quickly and didn’t give enough time to staff to respond, he added.
Lahore’s Lord Mayor Colonel (retd) Mubashir Javaid has constituted a fact-finding committee and tasked it to submit its report within three days. “We will take necessary action in light of the report,” Javaid told The Express Tribune. “The chief minister will soon announce financial compensation for the victims.”
The CEO of HCS, Shahid Saleem, said that apparently the fire was ignited by a cylinder blast, but the company was coordinating with government agencies to find out the exact reason. “I am unable to understand how the fire spread so quickly as there was no flammable material in the building,” he concluded.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 12th, 2017.