Amidst the frenzy and hype surrounding the May 11 election, the fire which broke out at the LDA Plaza, in Lahore, two days before this date and was not fully controlled even 24 hours later, has been virtually forgotten. The many human tragedies that occurred as a result of this blaze have barely been spoken of by a media obsessed by balloting results and figures and even today the precise number of persons killed in the fire is unclear: the figure generally reported stands at about 23; families of victims say it was higher, with up to 40 possibly dead. The cause of the fire is also not clear. The suggestions are that it was caused by short-circuiting in the building’s basement, but it is unclear if this has been investigated, as LDA officials said would happen.
The families of the dead have been handed over one million rupees as compensation. But this, of course, does nothing to ease their agony. Nor does it in any way contribute towards preventing future fires of the kind we saw at the LDA Plaza and before this in many other places in various cities. All these blazes make it quite obvious that we need better safeguards to prevent fires and better infrastructure to put them out. As before, in this case too, rescuers struggled for over a day to bring the inferno under control. People also need to be made aware about how they can best save themselves in case of fire, with drills carried out at workplaces and schools.
It is also not reassuring that this fire occurred at the building of the Authority meant to regulate building laws across Lahore. It is unclear if its own house was in order in terms of the existence of emergency exits and fire extinguishing equipment. This, too, is something to be examined, so that similar disasters can be prevented and greater value placed on human life by ensuring everything possible is done to avert deaths when calamities of this nature do occur. This can best be done by enforcing the rules that exist for this purpose but are rarely ever followed.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 19th, 2013.
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