A fire at a plaza in Shah Alam Market on Friday afternoon was ‘under control’ by the evening but there was no telling how long it would take to extinguish it.
Rescue 1122 officials said the fire broke out on the third floor of Al-Fazal Centre and engulfed all six storeys within a few hours. They announced in the evening that they had contained the fire and prevented it from spreading to the neighbouring buildings.
They said valuables worth millions of rupees were burnt in the fire. These included stocks of artificial jewellery, perfumes, plastic bottles and electronic appliances.
Seven people were taken to Mayo Hospital with burn injuries. Three were discharged after administration of first aid. Four others, identified as Faisal, 45; Saeed, 28; Kareem, 20; and Imran, 18, were out of danger according to doctors who treated them.
Rescue spokesman Farooq Ahmed said the number of injuries was low because most businesses in the building had been closed for Friday prayers. “Hundreds of people work in the plaza. The number of injuries would have been much large had the fire started in working hours,” he said.
Ahmed said the affected plaza was known as dana (plastic raw material) market. He said most businesses at the plaza were manufacturing plastic goods. He said goods stored inside the plaza caught fire very quickly. He said it appeared the fire was caused by an electric short circuit.
He said putting out fires in such locations is very difficult. He said no planning or a standard design had been followed in construction of buildings in the area. He said there were no emergency exits in these buildings. He complained that none of the shops in the Shah Alam Market had fire extinguishers. “A fire extinguisher costs no more than Rs3,000. Many traders don’t want to spend such a small amount and are ready to risk losing goods worth thousands of rupees,” he said. He said 10 fire trucks were at work at the site.
Anjum Malik, a resident of the area, said several plazas in the market had similar manufacturing units and warehouses.
He said the structure of the buildings was not suitable for manufacturing activities. He said some businesses were manufacturing replicas of plastic bottles of imported shampoos and filling them with shampoos available in the nearby chemicals market.
Shah Alam market traders’ association vice-president Kamran Butt, however, said that there was no manufacturing facility in the plaza. He said it housed warehouses of lighters, perfumes, soaps, toothpastes, pampers and children’s toys. He said the loss during the previous fire was between Rs600 and Rs700 million. He said compensation between Rs1.2 million and Rs1.4 million was paid to families of the deceased.
Talking to The Express Tribune, several traders said rescue effort was better organised than the last time. They said fire fighting vehicles arrived at the scene without wasting anytime. Trader Aslam Sheikh said there were no helicopters to aid the rescue workers this time. He said had such a facility available loss could have been minimised. Rescue workers said there was no need of helicopters at the moment. They said if there was a need they would request the provincial government to arrange the facility.
Bahria Tower fire
Eight people were killed and valuables worth billions of rupees were burnt in a fire that broke out in Shah Alam Market on February 7, 2011.
Three plazas and a mosque were razed to the ground and four other buildings were damaged in the fire. The fire was said to have started at a retail shop and spread to the neighbouring 13-storey Bahria Tower. The plaza contained several which housed whole sale shops of perfumes, wrist watches and electronic appliances.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 25th, 2011.