Death toll from Awami Markaz blaze rises to three

Published: September 13, 2017
Doctors had declared him clinically dead on Monday. PHOTO: EXPRESS

Doctors had declared him clinically dead on Monday. PHOTO: EXPRESS

ISLAMABAD: A day after he had jumped from the fourth floor of the Awami Markaz due to a massive blaze, 23-year-old Umar Ejaz breathed his last at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) in Islamabad early on Tuesday.

His death brings to three the toll in the fire which had engulfed the five-storey building where a number of software companies and government houses, including the office of the Federal Tax Ombudsman, were located.

Ejaz’s body was shifted to his native village of Talagang in Chakwal for burial.

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“Doctors had told us on Monday that he was clinically dead but had shifted him onto respirators to keep him alive,” Malik Tariq, a cousin of Ejaz, told The Express Tribune.

“He was in critical condition with a head injury, abdominal injuries and a number of fractures,” Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Medical University Vice Chancellor Dr Javed Akram said.

“He had been placed on a ventilator as doctors tried their best to save his life.” Ejaz was a student of Masters in Business Administration (MBA) at the Bahria University.

“He was a brilliant student and had passed his BBA from Bahria University with distinction,” Tariq said, adding that while studying for his MBA, he used to work nights at a private IT company inside the Awami Markaz along with his friend Ali Raza.

Raza had died after he too had jumped from the fourth floor of the building in an attempt to escape from the fire. But security guards and police officers who were holding out a blanket to catch them were unable to hold on and the two men crashed into the pavement. While Raza died soon after jumping, Ejaz had been rushed to the hospital in critical condition.

Ejaz was initially taken to the Polyclinic before being shifted to the burns centre at Pims.

He has left behind an elderly father, three brothers and a sister to mourn. His elder brother Usman lives in Islamabad while his other brother lives in Australia.

The third victim of the fire, Waqar, had opted to stay inside the building but died of suffocation and excessive smoke inhalation.

No completion certificate

The Awami Markaz, which devastated by a deadly fire on Sunday, was being used without obtaining a completion certificate from the Capital Development Authority (CDA) – which deals with fire and other safety elements for buildings.

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“There are dozens of such high-rise buildings in the federal capital belonging to the public and private sector which are being used without the completion certificate,” CDA Member Planning and Islamabad Metropolitan Corporation (IMC) Chief Metropolitan Officer (CMO) Asad Mehboob Kiyani told The Express Tribune.

The Awami Markaz had been built during the second government of Benazir Bhutto in the mid-nineties and belonged to the Ministry of Industries. However, it was let into use without obtaining CDA’s permission.

Last December, CDA had issued notices to owners of 10 high-rise buildings for using them without obtaining the completion certificates. The certificate is a licence for occupying a building and is issued after the owner fulfils all requirements, including emergency and disaster management such as fire safety equipment, implementation of building plans and ensuring the structural stability of the building.

CDA issued notices to high-rises including the Centaurus Mall, Silver Oaks in Sector F-10 Markaz, UBL building, Blue Area, the Stock Exchange building, Safa Gold Mall, the OGDCL building, Grand Hyatt Hotel (sealed) and two five-star hotels.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 13th, 2017.

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