LDA Plaza: ‘Former LDA chief ignored fire safety suggestions’

Published: May 14, 2013
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Two men wait to be saved from a burning building in central Lahore May 9, 2013. Fire erupted on the seventh floor of the LDA plaza in Lahore. PHOTO: REUTERS

Two men wait to be saved from a burning building in central Lahore May 9, 2013. Fire erupted on the seventh floor of the LDA plaza in Lahore. PHOTO: REUTERS

LAHORE: 

A petition has been filed in the Lahore High Court asking it to take action against those responsible for the LDA Plaza fire last week that left 25 people dead.

The petitioner, Advocate Noshab A Khan, submitted that a commission set up by the LHC had made several recommendations to improve fire safety in buildings. If the recommendations had been followed, the disaster at LDA Plaza would not have happened, he said.

Former LDA director general Ahad Khan Cheema had ignored the recommendations and should be tried for criminal negligence, the petitioner said.

The petitioner appeared to suggest that the fire was started deliberately. He claimed that LDA officials had delayed calling Rescue 1122 by about 45 minutes, allowing the fire to spread from its origin on the seventh floor. The Rescue 1122 DG had stated that lives could have been saved if fire fighters had been informed immediately. Records of inquiries into corruption scandals involving billions of rupees had been destroyed in the blaze, he claimed.

The LDA is supposed to check that all buildings in the city are following fire safety regulations, but had been unable to do so for its own headquarters, he said. The nine-storey LDA Plaza, constructed around 35 years ago, violated building by-laws, he said.

The staircase in the building was poorly designed and hampered rescue efforts, according to the petitioner. Rescue 1122 did not have a ladder that could get up to the eighth and ninth floors, where several people had been trapped.

The petitioner asked the court to assign blame for the fire and then punish those at fault. He sought a criminal negligence case against the former LDA director general and directions to Rescue 1122 to make sure it has the equipment needed to fight fires in highrise buildings. He also asked the court to direct the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to remove all cell phone towers from atop multi-storey buildings so that they do not hinder rescue efforts by helicopters, as had happened in the LDA Plaza.

LDA jobs pledge

The LDA will give jobs to the children of the 24 employees who died in the Plaza fire, said Dr Ijaz Munir, the current LDA director general, on Monday.

Speaking to reporters after prayers for the deceased were offered at the LDA office in Johar Town and outside the charred tower on Egerton Road, Dr Munir said that the authority would take responsibility for the families of the fire victims. They would be given financial assistance as well as jobs, he said.

He urged LDA employees to move forward and strengthen the organisation so it becomes better at public service. He urged them to work hard to rebuild the organisation.

LDA Additional Directors General Mariam Kiyani and Muhammad Usman Naeem, Water and Sanitation Agency Managing Director Dr Javed Iqbal, and other LDA, Wasa and Traffic Engineering and Transport Planning Agency workers and officers attended the prayers. Chaudhry Mehmoodul Ahad, Haji Saeed Khokhar, Shahid Baqir and Shehzad Anwer   office bearers of the LDA union, CBA – were also present.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 14th, 2013.

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