Fire ravages H-9 Sunday Bazaar

Hundreds of stalls gutted; government to compensate affected kiosk owners

OSAMA IQBAL July 11, 2024
A salesman sits idle in Jodia Bazaar the wholesale market of pulses, grains and spices. Shopkeepers say sales are dropping as prices continue to climb upwards. Photo: express


Hundreds of stalls were burnt to ashes when a fire broke out in the H-9 makeshift market (Sunday Bazaar) in Islamabad on Wednesday. This marks the fourth fire incident at the federal capital’s largest Sunday Bazaar.

Soon after the incident, emergency services, including the Islamabad administration's fire brigades and firefighters, immediately responded to extinguish the fire. The Pakistan Navy's rescue teams joined the efforts, deploying four fire tenders, one water bowser, and firefighters. The Pakistan Air Force also provided support with two fire tenders. A total of 31 vehicles of the fire brigade and 250 rescue personnel took part in the operation.

Islamabad Chief Commissioner, Muhammad Ali Randhawa, speaking to the media alongside IG Islamabad, outside the Sunday Bazaar, stated that the fire started at 11.07am and was later brought under control. The area has been sealed, and a damage assessment is underway. The cause of the fire has yet to be ascertained.

Randhawa further said that previous fires had occurred in the area and formed a committee headed by Islamabad Deputy Commissioner, Irfan Nawaz Memon, to investigate the cause of the fire. The committee, including technical experts, will submit a report within seven days. Of the 2,743 stalls, 500 were damaged in the blaze.

Following the prime minister’s directive, compensation will be provided to those who suffered losses and measures will be taken to prevent future fire incidents.

‘Delayed response to fire’

Central Organisation of Pakistan Traders, President Kashif Chaudhry, criticised the district administration’s incompetence, pointing out that when the fire broke out, there was only one fire extinguisher on site, and it lacked water. This negligence allowed the fire to spread rapidly, engulfing hundreds of stalls. The delayed response of the fire tenders further exacerbated the situation.

Although the Capital Development Authority (CDA) chairman, IGP Islamabad, and other officials arrived at the scene, the fire tenders started arriving later. Chaudhry lamented that if the fire tenders had arrived promptly, the extensive damage and losses suffered by the stall owners, amounting to millions, could have been averted.

He expressed his sadness over the fact that this is now the fourth tragedy to occur at this Sunday Bazaar. Despite administration officials making visits and inquiry committees being formed after each incident, no reports have been made public so far.

However, he welcomed the CDA chairman and chief commissioner’s announcement to compensate the stall owners’ losses. He hoped that the damages would be rectified immediately.

Call for investigation

Chaudhry emphasised the need for a thorough inquiry into the tragedy, investigating the causes behind such recurring fire incidents. He demanded that if negligence on the part of CDA or any individual is found, they should be severely punished to prevent future tragedies. Furthermore, he stressed the importance of posting permanent fire tenders and experienced fire extinguishing staff in the market to ensure prompt response and minimise damage in case of any future disasters.

He lamented that this tragedy had destroyed hundreds of stalls, leaving the stall owners in a state of despair. He said these stalls were the sole source of income for their families, adding that the affected shopkeepers have lost their lifetime savings, amounting to millions of rupees.



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