Karachi factory fire put out after 30 hours

Published: October 28, 2012

Firemen stand near the burning chemical warehouse of a factory in Karachi. PHOTO: REUTERS

A fire tender, two snorkels used in putting out fire; more than 100 firefighters took part in the process. PHOTO: REUTERS Firemen stand near the burning chemical warehouse of a factory in Karachi. PHOTO: REUTERS

KARACHI: The fire that erupted in a chemical factory located in Gulbai area of Karachi was put out after 30 hours, while the cooling process is underway, Express News reported Monday.

A fire tender and two snorkels were used in putting out the fire, while more than 100 firefighters took part in the process.

A section of the chemical warehouse of a plastic packages manufacturing factory in the Sindh Industrial Trading Estate (SITE), had collapsed after the fire erupted there.

The fires had severely weakened the five storied structure, and parts of it had collapsed. Firefighters continued to combat the blaze from outside.

Executive District Officer Municipal Services Shoukat Zaman had said 40 that fire tenders, including two snorkels were struggling to extinguish the fire and were provided with foam.

However, Express News correspondent Nadeem Ahmed said that the foam has not been used in adequate quantities.

The fire had reportedly started late Saturday night. While the fire brigade had reached the area immediately, it was struggling to control the fire. Such was the intensity of the fire, that it was quickly elevated to a category three and fire tenders from across the city were called in to help put the blaze out. Even PAF fire tenders from the nearby Masroor airbase tried to help in putting the blaze out. Several explosions were heard within the factory as well.

Failing to adequately control the fire, firefighters concentrated on containing the blaze in the affected building and prevent adjoining buildings from catching fire. An adjoining warehouse containing rice had also caught fire, but it was quickly put out.

It is reported that the factory located near Gul Bai is nearly 30 years old and employs 600 workers.

Factory to be torn down

Karachi administrator Muhammad Hussain Syed visited the burning factory on Sunday said that the fire started shortly before midnight on Saturday night. He said that the factory’s staff initially tried to control the fire locally, “but when they noticed it was beyond them, they called in the fire brigade.”

However, by the time the fire brigade reached, they fire had intensified. “There were chemicals, in addition to films and ethanol which are all highly flammable,” Syed said, adding that the fire brigade elevated the fire to a category three and called in tenders from across the city. Help was also sought from Civil Aviation and the Karachi Port Trust.

Syed said that despite their best efforts, the fire had severely weakened the structure of the building. “It will have to be torn down.”

Lack of water hurting fire fighting efforts

Fire fighter Imtiaz explained Express News that while Chemical fires take longer than regular fires to bring under control, the large area over which the blaze was spread was also causing them problem in fighting it.

However, the major issue that was thwarting fire fighting efforts was availability of water, Imtiaz said. “If water was available at the factory, we would have put out the fire by now.”

“There were no fire hydrants at the factory. We have had to send brigades to SITE post office, SITE town and nearby factories to refill water, this is the sole reason for the delay in putting the blaze out, otherwise we have foam and other necessary tools,” Imtiaz said.

When Karachi’s administrator was asked why had it taken all the fire tenders in the city such a long time to combat the fire, he explained that chemical fires take a longer time to fight and to put out. In addition to that, he said that the fire department had come unstuck on the unavailability of water. “Water shortage started around three am and managing director Water board was present at the site to help manage that.”

On the fire fighting systems installed in the factory, Syed said that while mechanisms may be installed, but scant attention to maintaining these mechanisms may in fact make the system fail. “This was seen in this case since no water was available in the factory.”

Syed added that they could not offer any idea on how the fire started and that they will have to wait for an inquiry report .

No casualties

Fortunately, no one was injured in the blaze as workers were off for Eid holidays.

However, after learning of the blaze, some visited factory to see the damage first hand.

One of the factory workers told Express News that internally, the factory maintains a very good fire fighting mechanism, however all workers were off for Eid. He was seconded by firefighter Imtiaz who said, “They had adequate fire safety measures according to the nature of their work.”

Another employee said that there were only four guards, including a factory firefighter who were present when the fire started. They were the ones who called the fire brigade, he said.

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Reader Comments (18)

  • Oct 28, 2012 - 11:43AM

    That shows that administration has done nothing to improve the situation. Pakistan is unable to make a fire fighting system in the country and claims to be a nuclear state.

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  • Aijaz Haider
    Oct 28, 2012 - 2:51PM

    @Ali: Agree with you 100%.

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  • MUG
    Oct 28, 2012 - 3:39PM

    of you don’t agree with us your factory might get gutted in fire…Is this the upcoming signal where all criminal to constructive minded people know that our fragile systems are not efficient enough to control fires in time…

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  • Aftab
    Oct 28, 2012 - 3:49PM

    What is the update on the previous fire by the way? did the investigation complete? are the culprits caught? the one that claimed so many lives in Karachi?

    we keep forgetting about things that have happened and been replaced by new events…!

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  • Naseem Islam
    Oct 28, 2012 - 4:44PM

    Bet it is insured and conveniently no one was there when it happened.

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  • Mallick
    Oct 28, 2012 - 5:11PM

    What sort of vultures dominate the city government, where buildings, factories etc are allowed to be built, billions collected as tax, yet there is no provision for proper fire fighting equipment, nor safety

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  • Farhan
    Oct 28, 2012 - 9:39PM

    had ths fire broke in lahore trolls would ve asked resignation of CM

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  • Truth Detector
    Oct 28, 2012 - 9:57PM

    No proper arrangement/resources to put out fires but everything for protecting Bilawal house.

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  • Javed Mateen
    Oct 28, 2012 - 9:59PM

    Dont blame the authorities, what about the owners responsibility did they have any measures in place in the detection,early warning and prevention I guess not why so much chemical and flammable material stacked in one place without proper measure this is bound to happen.Responsibility rest on the owners,SITE assosciation and govt regulators/inspectors equally.

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  • Mohammad Ali Siddiqui
    Oct 28, 2012 - 10:19PM

    This will go on until the last day of the world as the government servants are employed by the government to draw monthly salaries + the bribes as much as they can extract from the poor masses.

    After the factory incident in which more than 250 people were burnt alive, the whole government machinery was supposed to be shaken upside down but what to talk about the efficiency and good governance of the provincial as well as the federal government.

    We are all living in a jungle and there is no law. And if at all there is a law that is for the innocent and poor people to extort the hard earned money from their pockets.

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  • Mehtab
    Oct 29, 2012 - 6:41AM

    I think this is the third or fourth fire accident that occurred and it is now occurring on regular basis. After some days we hear that a factory caught fire and no one knows how it caught fire.

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  • Aijaz Haider
    Oct 29, 2012 - 9:27AM

    @Javed Mateen: I agree 100% with you too.

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  • Asad Malik
    Oct 29, 2012 - 9:40AM

    @Ali: Really? Putting out a fire in a chemical plant is NOT easy. You should research before bashing each and everything in Pakistan. I’ve seen loads of fires get out of control here in the US.

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  • Oct 29, 2012 - 9:53AM

    @Ali:
    it is very true.we living in Karachi must now take a stand and ask our officials as to what are they waiting for.cant those so called stake holders of this city come forward and play their part irrespective of their party affiliation come together on this important matter.

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  • joseph
    Oct 29, 2012 - 10:44AM

    Chemical fires can only be extinguished by foam, period. Putting water over it makes them worse.

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  • Bilal Moti, Arif Habib Securities
    Oct 29, 2012 - 10:59AM

    what was the name of the factory?

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  • MUG
    Oct 29, 2012 - 2:07PM

    @Bilal Moti, Arif Habib Securities:
    metatex

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  • Salman
    Oct 29, 2012 - 9:40PM

    The Govt should authorize all factories out off city limits and away from population, also, search and destroy all illegal factories made in populace area.

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