KARACHI: Over 1,000 shops, stalls, warehouses and restaurants were gutted as a fire broke out in New Sabzi Mandi on Super Highway on Wednesday afternoon.
According to witnesses, the fire started at a godown situated in the section of the market where they keep bananas, and it rapidly spread to the potatoes and onions section of the vegetable wholesale market. Given the distance from main city areas, most shops had burned down by the time the fire trucks arrived. Fortunately, no loss of life was reported as most traders and shopkeepers had already left for home.
The strong winds in the city did not help as the fire quickly spread across the market. “Whoever got their hands on some water tried to extinguish the fire,” said Matloob Baig, who lost two vegetable shops in the blaze. “Until the fire trucks came, we filled buckets with water and tried to control the fire.”
Several shopkeepers who lived nearby also came down to help in the rescue work. “I had just reached home when I learned that a fire had broken out,” said shopkeeper Imran Khan. “When I came here, I saw that everything was destroyed.”
Hassan Khan blamed the fire department for failing to reach the market on time. “What use is a water bucket in such a large fire?” he asked.
The market association said it was too early to determine if it was an accident or not. “How do we know if the fire was deliberately started or it happened by accident? All we are concerned about right now is the losses and we’re trying to save as much as we can,” said Falah-e-Anjuman Sabzi Mandi general secretary Rauf Tanoli.
Meanwhile, the fire department said that it was a third-degree fire and more than 20 fire engines were dispatched to extinguish the blaze immediately after they received the information. Chief fire officer Ehtishamuddin Siddiqui told The Express Tribune that the inferno was brought under control after the hectic efforts of at least seven hours. “Every single time people blame us that we did not reach on time,” he said, explaining that the fire became worse due to strong winds, hot weather and the fact that there was no water supply.”
Even the fire trucks kept rushing back to Sohrab Goth to replenish their water supplies, he added. Initially, the fire department arranged for supply from a nearby hydrant but that could not work out due to electricity breakdown.
New Sabzi Mandi is spread over 94 acres and nearly half of it was affected, said Tanoli. He added that the supply of fruits and vegetables in the city will continue from today.
An inquiry team, comprising traders’ fire department and police representatives, has been constituted to probe into the nature of the fire.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 7th, 2013.