Two jump to death as 14-storey commercial centre catches fire

March 22, 2019

Years after a young man lost his life after jumping off the burning 10th storey of the State Life building in the Saddar area, the city witnessed another similar tragedy on Thursday when two people...

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Years after a young man lost his life after jumping off the burning 10th storey of the State Life building in the Saddar area, the city witnessed another similar tragedy on Thursday when two people lost their lives as they jumped off a multi-storey building in the Gulshan-e-Iqbal neighbourhood to save themselves from a fire.

The tragic incident took place at midday in which, besides the two deaths, over a dozen people sustained injuries as the building where the fire had erupted did not have emergency exits and the stranded people could not use stairs due to smoke and flames.

The site of the fire was Noor Trade Centre, a ground-plus-13-floor building on University Road within the limits of the Aziz Bhatti police station. Besides the fire brigade, Pakistan Navy helicopters also participated in the rescue operation to airlift the trapped people to safety; however, before the helicopters could reach, two of the trapped people had jumped off the building to death in a bid to save themselves from the flames.

Witnesses said the fire broke out at around 12pm noon at the seventh floor of the building which rapidly spread to other floors. The fire caused panic among the people present in the building, many of whom found no way to escape.

Scores of people in the building, however, managed to reach the roof from where they started shouting and screaming for help. The fire was intense and the smoke billowing from the building could be seen from miles away. “We did not have a chance to escape by running down the stairs due to intense flames and smoke,” said one of the rescued persons. “The only chance of escape we had was from the roof.”

Fire tenders of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation reached the building to douse the blaze. The Pakistan Navy also sent its fire tenders to the site along with helicopters to airlift the people seeking help from the roof.

Witnesses reported that the KMC initially dispatched only one fire tender to the building, however, three more fire tenders were later sent to put out the blaze. Two snorkels were also called to the fire site to rescue the trapped people.

The two persons who jumped off the building before the arrival of rescue teams were severely injured. They were shifted to a hospital where they succumbed to their injuries. Over a dozen people were also injured in the incident who were taken to various private and government hospitals for medical treatment. Many of them were later released after receiving medical first aid.

The fire also resulted in a massive traffic jam on University Road. Long queues of vehicles on the road also made it difficult for the fire tenders to reach the site without delay.

The firefighters, however, were able to control the blaze in half an hour whereas it further took one-and-a-half hours for the cooling process to complete. Later, a majority of the people stranded on the roof came outside the building through the stairs.

“The fire broke out at an outer of the air conditioner (AC) installed on the seventh floor while the smoke spread in the building via deck [ventilation area],” Chief Fire Officer (CFO) Tehseen Siddiqui explained while talking to The News. “The fire, heat and smoke also partially damaged the sixth, eighth, ninth and 10th floor of the building,” he said, adding that a majority of injuries occurred due to panic which caused stampede.

After dousing the blaze, the fire department officials evacuated all the people from the building, Siddiqui said. “Some 40 people trapped on the roof were later rescued through the stairs,” he explained. “Before we reached the site with the jumping sheet and fire escape suits, unfortunately two of them had already jumped.”

A contingent of police and Rangers also reached the site to disperse the crowd gathered outside the building and help the rescuers in their operation.

District East SSP Ghulam Azfar Mahesar said the building did not have a proper fire-extinguishing apparatus as well as there were no emergency exits. “One man died after he jumped from the 10th floor of a building immediately after the fire broke out while the other died when he attempted to save his life while jumping from the building’s roof to the roof of a building located next to it,” SSP Mahesar explained.

The officer said the police would register an FIR against the owners and the administration of the building for being guilty of negligence.

The deceased persons were later identified as 35-year-old Jahanzaib, son of Sardar, and Hamza, 27, son of Masood Awan, who was a resident of North Karachi. The SSP said the building where the fire erupted was a commercial building where offices of different companies, particularly call centres were located. The windowpanes of the building also shattered due to the heat while the fire also affected the walls, he added.

The police sealed the building after the rescue operation was over and engineers from the Sindh Building Control Authority were called to inspect the building.

The injured persons included Fida Hussain, 26, Waleed, 25, Saleh, 40, Abdul Haseeb, 28, Imran, 48, Sajjad Ahmed, 28, Arsalan Ahmed, Sheraz, Faiz Ahmed, Mubashir and Talib Hussain.

Mayor lauds fire brigade

Mayor Karachi Wasim Akhtar lauded the KMC fire brigade for rescuing more than 30 persons alive from the building that caught fire in Gulshan-e-Iqbal, adds our correspondent.

In a statement issued, the mayor said despite limited resources, firefighters of the KMC fire brigade risked their lives to rescue the people trapped inside the ill-fated building.

The mayor recalled that the KMC firefighter had in the past performed similar feats and also embraced martyrdom while trying to rescue people during fire incidents.

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