KARACHI: The fire that erupted in a chemical factory located in Gulbai area of Karachi was put out after 30 hours, while the cooling process is underway, Express News reported Monday.
A fire tender and two snorkels were used in putting out the fire, while more than 100 firefighters took part in the process.
A section of the chemical warehouse of a plastic packages manufacturing factory in the Sindh Industrial Trading Estate (SITE), had collapsed after the fire erupted there.
The fires had severely weakened the five storied structure, and parts of it had collapsed. Firefighters continued to combat the blaze from outside.
Executive District Officer Municipal Services Shoukat Zaman had said 40 that fire tenders, including two snorkels were struggling to extinguish the fire and were provided with foam.
However, Express News correspondent Nadeem Ahmed said that the foam has not been used in adequate quantities.
The fire had reportedly started late Saturday night. While the fire brigade had reached the area immediately, it was struggling to control the fire. Such was the intensity of the fire, that it was quickly elevated to a category three and fire tenders from across the city were called in to help put the blaze out. Even PAF fire tenders from the nearby Masroor airbase tried to help in putting the blaze out. Several explosions were heard within the factory as well.
Failing to adequately control the fire, firefighters concentrated on containing the blaze in the affected building and prevent adjoining buildings from catching fire. An adjoining warehouse containing rice had also caught fire, but it was quickly put out.
It is reported that the factory located near Gul Bai is nearly 30 years old and employs 600 workers.
Factory to be torn down
Karachi administrator Muhammad Hussain Syed visited the burning factory on Sunday said that the fire started shortly before midnight on Saturday night. He said that the factory’s staff initially tried to control the fire locally, “but when they noticed it was beyond them, they called in the fire brigade.”
However, by the time the fire brigade reached, they fire had intensified. “There were chemicals, in addition to films and ethanol which are all highly flammable,” Syed said, adding that the fire brigade elevated the fire to a category three and called in tenders from across the city. Help was also sought from Civil Aviation and the Karachi Port Trust.
Syed said that despite their best efforts, the fire had severely weakened the structure of the building. “It will have to be torn down.”
Lack of water hurting fire fighting efforts
Fire fighter Imtiaz explained Express News that while Chemical fires take longer than regular fires to bring under control, the large area over which the blaze was spread was also causing them problem in fighting it.
However, the major issue that was thwarting fire fighting efforts was availability of water, Imtiaz said. “If water was available at the factory, we would have put out the fire by now.”
“There were no fire hydrants at the factory. We have had to send brigades to SITE post office, SITE town and nearby factories to refill water, this is the sole reason for the delay in putting the blaze out, otherwise we have foam and other necessary tools,” Imtiaz said.
When Karachi’s administrator was asked why had it taken all the fire tenders in the city such a long time to combat the fire, he explained that chemical fires take a longer time to fight and to put out. In addition to that, he said that the fire department had come unstuck on the unavailability of water. “Water shortage started around three am and managing director Water board was present at the site to help manage that.”
On the fire fighting systems installed in the factory, Syed said that while mechanisms may be installed, but scant attention to maintaining these mechanisms may in fact make the system fail. “This was seen in this case since no water was available in the factory.”
Syed added that they could not offer any idea on how the fire started and that they will have to wait for an inquiry report .
Fortunately, no one was injured in the blaze as workers were off for Eid holidays.
However, after learning of the blaze, some visited factory to see the damage first hand.
One of the factory workers told Express News that internally, the factory maintains a very good fire fighting mechanism, however all workers were off for Eid. He was seconded by firefighter Imtiaz who said, "They had adequate fire safety measures according to the nature of their work."
Another employee said that there were only four guards, including a factory firefighter who were present when the fire started. They were the ones who called the fire brigade, he said.