At least six people were killed and 17 others were injured on Saturday when a powerful explosion occurred at a fireworks warehouse in the Hussain Agahi area of Multan.
Efforts were still under way to clear the rubble and rescue people believed to be buried under the debris.
According to details, a truck filled with fireworks was unloading at the warehouse when the blast occurred, causing five shops and a three-storey residential building to collapse.
Two bodies were initially recovered from underneath the collapsed building.
According to eyewitness, a victim, identified as Muhammad Amir, had called out for help from under the rubble; however, he succumbed to his injuries before the rescue team reached him.
A beauty parlor and a shop for parlor usage materials also caught fire in the explosion.
Warehouse owner Zulfiqar’s daughter and son died in the incident, whereas his wife and younger son, Dilawar, are critically injured. According to doctors, with more than 70% burns on their bodies, they are in a serious condition.
CPO Multan reached the site of the blast with his team and informed the media that the area SHO had been suspended and assured of action against all those involved in continuing to let the banned business run.
Police have arrested the owners of the warehouse, Zulfiqar and his partner Parvez, and have registered a case against them for running the banned business, which has come under police scrutiny before.
According to the police, a case was registered against the same warehouse on Shab-e-Baraat. The police had constituted a team to raid the warehouse; however, the SHO excused the owners.
Zulfiqar and his wife were arrested two years ago for running the banned business; however, they were released on bail.
Investigations have revealed that the firework material is distributed all over the country from Multan, with the backing of politicians and police officials.
The Hussain Agahi area near Chowk Bazaar Square is the most congested part of Multan and is the constituency of provincial Minister for Labor Haji Ehsaanuddin Qureshi, whose house is in the lane next to the blast site.
His son, Munawar Ehsaan, had allegedly pressurised police officials to release the truck filled with the fireworks material, which was captured by the police recently.
Locals told the media that Munawar runs a criminal gang in the area. Former mayor Nazim Qureshi told reporters at the blast site that criminals working under the supervision of Ehsaanudin Qureshi have made the area a no-go area and it was evident that the police have not launched a proper crackdown against the business.
Residents of the area told The Express Tribune that they had also been threatened not to complain about the warehouse in the area.
Last year, a blast in the same area left five children dead.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 5th, 2012.