KARACHI: Two persons were killed and at least nine others sustained burn injuries when a fire broke out on the fourth floor of a high-rise building on main University Road in Gulshan-e-Iqbal on Thursday. Several others were also affected by the smoke and had to be taken to the hospital for first aid.
The fire, which authorities said, erupted on the fourth floor of the 12-storey Noor Trade Centre, caused smoke to quickly spread to the upper floors. Screams of people, trying to attract attention for help, filled the air as fire fighters, aided by other civic and rescue agencies, strove to rescue the trapped persons.
Karachi building blaze kills two
According to fire officials, the fire erupted at around noon. The occupants, who found themselves trapped, kept calling for help and climbed to the roof of the building to escape the blaze.
Police and Rangers immediately reached the spot after receiving information of the blaze. A large number of citizens had also gathered outside the building at this point.
The one fire brigade that had managed to reach the site tried in vain to contain the fire. However, by the time the backup teams arrived, the situation had grown so dire that it had confined the occupants to the rooftop. It was at this point that two persons jumped from the 10th floor of the building in a bid to save themselves from the fire.
Rescue teams rushed both the victims to the hospital but they couldn’t survive their injuries and died during the course of medical treatment.
In the meantime, four more fire brigades and two snorkels arrived and joined in the rescue operation. Pakistan Navy’s fire tenders and helicopters were also requisitioned by the city administration to rescue the people trapped on the rooftop.
Amid all this, the movement of vehicular traffic was severely affected on University Road, which caused long queues of cars to form. The fire brigade teams faced difficulty in reaching the site due to the traffic jam.
The fire fighters ultimately managed to bring the blaze under control with the help of two snorkels, seven fire tenders and an excavator after frantic efforts of around two hours. The people present on the rooftop eventually climbed down from the stairwell after the fire was extinguished completely.
Cause of fire
Chief Fire Officer Tehseen Ahmed Siddiqui told media personnel that the fire broke out in the outer of an air conditioner on the fourth floor. The smoke quickly spread to other floors and rooms while passing through the duct and people grew frightened.
They tried to save their lives by rushing towards the stairs, causing a stampede. The majority of the victims were injured due to the jostling and pushing.
According to Siddiqui, the fire brigades had difficulty in reaching the spot due to the traffic jam. “The fire brigade team has searched all the floors and declared them clear,” he said. “The building has been evacuated and the fire has been completely extinguished,” he added. To a query regarding the presence of fire safety arrangements in the building, the official said that the team would inspect the building and then ascertain whether the protocol for high-rise buildings was followed.
Gulshan SP Tahir Ahmed Noorani said that the two persons who had jumped from the building were identified as 35-year-old Jehanzeb, son of Sardar and 27-year-old Hamza, son of Masood Awan.
SP Noorani explained that offices of various companies were located in the building, which had even developed cracks from the fire and was therefore dangerous to inhabit. The police have sealed the whole building.
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Mayor applauds rescue teams
Karachi Mayor Waseem Akhter applauded the Fire Department for taking swift action to control the fire and preventing it from spreading further. “Our fire brigade teams have always performed well despite limited resources,” he said, adding that fire fighters have also been martyred during the discharge of their duties but have never showed negligence with their responsibilities.
Chief Fire Officer Siddiqui, briefing the mayor about the incident, said that although the fire was not very big and was controlled immediately, but the structure of the building was such that there is no balcony or duct in it. The structure was completely sealed, which is why the smoke had engulfed the whole building.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 22nd, 2019.
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