LAHORE: One person died while another was injured in a fire which engulfed a plaza situated on MM Alam Road in Gulberg on Saturday evening.
The deceased and the injured were shifted to a nearby hospital. One of the victims had jumped down from the second floor of the plaza in a bid to escape the fire.
The plaza, named Ali Tower, is situated on MM Alam Road, a posh locality of Lahore where a large number of restaurants and shopping centres are visited by hundreds of families on a daily basis.
As it was Saturday night, the area was more crowded than usual. The traffic jam resulting from the fire also hindered the rescue operation.
The fire broke out in the basement of a restaurant. The blazing inferno spread to the upper part of the plaza through the gaps in the stairs. It was contained after some time and the thick black smoke could also be seen from a distance.
There were a large number of people trapped inside the plaza as the visibility was affected by the smoke. Witnesses said the victims were also unable to move as the fire was causing them to suffocate. They added that the intensity of the fire was greater in the lower portion of the building.
The victims escaped to the balconies and facades of their respective floors, while many took off their shirts and waved them around to grab the attention of rescue teams.
As the fire broke out, a victim was trapped on the second floor and he jumped down to save his life. The man suffered injuries as a result of the fall. Rescue teams shifted him to a nearby hospital for treatment.
One of the people caught up in the blaze said that they rushed outside and called rescue teams for help. The police and emergency services reached the spot within 10 minutes and launched an operation.
Police blocked the entrances of MM Alam Road for traffic so that movement of rescue teams was not impeded in any way. The teams worked on controlling the fire and also evacuated trapped victims.
The personnel faced facing problems entering the plaza from the front side as high tension electricity wires were passing through the area. They ultimately barged into the building and also used an adjacent structure to enter the plaza from the eighth floor. The workers used ropes and ladders to evacuate the victims.
After an hour of the firefighting efforts, the blaze was controlled and the victims were evacuated in the same amount of time. A special team of Rescue 1122’s Urban Search and Rescue Unit launched a search and sweep operation to determine if anyone was still trapped in the building.
Punjab Government Spokesperson Fayyazul Hassan Chohan reached the spot and briefed the media about the rescue efforts. He also claimed that the plaza was owned by Imran Ali, the son-in-law of former Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif.
Three suffocate to death
Meanwhile, three men, including two brothers, died due of suffocation while cleaning a gutter in a housing society on Saturday.
Police said the deceased individuals, identified as Shahzad, Khawar and Imran, were all employees of Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA). They were called in to clean the gutter in Estate Life Society on Kamahan Road. First, Khawar went inside the manhole, but did not return. After a little while, his brother Shahzad also went inside to check on him, but did not return either. Finally, Imran followed him and locals informed the police when he also failed to return.
A police team reached the spot and called rescue teams. The rescuers went inside and found the victims in an unconscious state. They evacuated shifted the three men to the hospital, but they were pronounced as dead on arrival. Police shifted the bodies to the morgue for an autopsy, collected forensic evidence from crime scene and recorded the statements of the witnesses.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 9th, 2018.