KARACHI: Materials and objects relating to the cases in districts South and East were reduced to ashes in a mysterious fire that erupted on Wednesday at the City Courts' malkhana.
However, materials relating to the cases of districts Central and West survived as they were stored in another room of the malkhana. The blaze erupted in the early hours of Wednesday and quickly engulfed the entire building.
Initially, the fire brigade department dispatched two fire tenders to the site. However, they were not enough to douse the fire, after which fire tenders from across the city were called in.
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The blaze still could not be controlled after which the operation was called off. The fire tenders and rescue teams present at the site were also asked to move away from the building due to the presence of explosive materials, hand grenades and a large quantity of weapons kept in the malkhana, which caused minor explosions.
"A total of 12 fire tenders, two water bowsers and a snorkel participated in the extinguishing work," said Chief Fire Officer Tehseen Siddiqui. "Our firefighters made efforts to control the blaze despite the presence of explosive materials without bulletproof jackets or other safety equipment."
According to Siddiqui, nothing could be said with certainty about the cause of the fire. The fire brigade department would be able to comment on the cause of the fire after the examination of the site once it cooled, he said.
It took at least five hours for the firefighters to control the blaze, whereas the cooling process was under way till the late hours of Wednesday evening.
Sindh Inspector-General (IG) of Police Allah Dino Khowaja, along with Karachi Additional IG Mushtaq Maher, Zone South DIG Azad Khan and SSP Sheraz Nazeer, visited the fire site. "A bunker could have been made while using the latest technology to keep the explosive materials," the IG said while speaking to the media. "This [malkhana] building was established during the British era. The explosive material kept at the malkhana was defused. However, the intensity of the fire caused explosions," he added.
The fire could have been caused by a short circuit, the IG said, adding that nothing could be conclusively said till the investigations were completed.
Responding to a question, SSP Nazeer said, "The fire brigade just handed over the building to the police late on Wednesday evening". He reiterated that till investigations were completed, it could not be said whether the fire was the result of a criminal act.
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The SSP maintained that the police would start investigations today (Thursday) to ascertain the actual cause of the fire. The case properties of four districts - South, West, East and Central - were kept at the malkhana, he said, adding that the case properties of districts South and East were destroyed in the incident, while districts West and Central records remained safe.
Earlier, SHO Shoaibur Rehman had claimed that the fire was caused by a bottle containing chemicals that had accidentally been left out at the site during a cleanliness drive.
Earlier on February 25, a fire broke out at the new Sindh Secretariat building where offices of the chief minister, information minister and industries minister are located. The fire brigade department had termed the fire 'suspicious'.