Burnt warehouse: Short circuit causes Afghan Carpet to lose Rs50m

Police claim that the loss is being estimated and no case has been registered.

Express August 22, 2011

KARACHI: Afghan Carpet, one of Karachi’s best known traders in the luxury item, has estimated that it lost at least 50 million rupees in the fire that broke out on Saturday. The figures are just initial, however, as the insurance company can only given a final appraisal.

“A short circuit started the fire right after I left the office on Saturday,” said owner Pervez Hussain. “I am glad that no one was injured.” The warehouse had priceless Afghan, Pakistani, Persian and Tibetan wool and silk carpets, all highly inflammable. A regular customer who did not want to be named said that one antique Mughlai carpet was worth Rs5.5 million, just to give an estimate of the loss. Some of the carpets take 10 years to make, and have to be discarded if there is even one mistake.

Around one hundred people, including staff, were inside when the fire broke out near Punjab Chowrangi on Saturday within the limits of Frere police station. Witnesses claim that the blaze fire broke out in the owner’s office located on the mezzanine floor.

Hussain told The Express Tribune that he heard screaming as soon as he left the office. The shocked owner said that the fire had spread so quickly that they had no idea what to do. He added that he was extremely proud of the efforts made by his staff. “These young ones really put their lives at risk to save the shop,” he said. “They have won my heart.”

Witnesses claim that it was difficult to start rescue work because of the thick smoke. The fire was so intense and uncontrollable that it spread throughout the warehouse within minutes. “We did what we could and then we stood outside helplessly watching it burn down,” said the owner. “I don’t know what to do, just pray to Allah for his forgiveness and to grant us patience.”

On Sunday, the warehouse was being cleaned while the stock which had been spared was being moved to another warehouse also owned by Hussain. The owner claimed that he hoped that Afghan Carpet would be open for business soon. Afghan Carpet has several branches across the country. A staff member claimed that because of the 40% discount promotional offer there was a massive crowd of people inside at the time. “The customers did not lose anything, they ran outside as soon as the place caught fire but for us it was different, it was like watching your house being burnt down,” he said.

The fire brigade reached the chowrangi in time but that the smoke was so thick and dense that they had to take additional precautionary measures to enter the building. “We did not have a proper uniform or masks but even if we had it would not have made a difference,” said a fire fighter. A fire brigade official agreed with Hussain’s statement that the fire was caused by a short circuit.

On-duty SI Mohammad Wilayat told The Express Tribune that the owner had told the authorities that the fire was not a criminal act but broke out because of a short circuit. The officer added that the loss was being estimated and no case had been registered as it was an accidental fire.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 22nd,  2011.


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