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Wednesday May 29, 2024

11 die as fire engulfs multi-storey mall in Karachi

Fire broke out at around 7am, engulfing fourth, fifth and sixth floors of shopping mall

By Afzal Nadeem Dogar & Syed Daniyal Hussain & Zeeshan Shah
November 25, 2023

KARACHI: At least 11 people died after a multi-storey shopping mall on Rashid Minhas Road caught fire on Saturday, Karachi Mayor Murtaza Wahab confirmed.

Taking to X, Wahab wrote: "KMC Fire Department has so far confirmed that there have been 10 casualties in the fire incident."

A spokesperson for the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Center (JPMC) said they received nine bodies, while a rescue official said one body each was shifted to the Civil Hospital and Abbasi Shaheed Hospital.

The fire that broke out at around 7am on the second floor of the RJ shopping mall engulfed the fourth, fifth and sixth floors. The reason behind the blaze, however, remains unclear.

According to fire brigade officials, the fire at the shopping centre has been brought under control, while the cooling process is also underway on one of the floors.

Nearly 50 people, they added, have been rescued from the building while the injured have been shifted to a nearby healthcare facility for treatment. Six of those injured are in critical condition, officials said.

At least eight fire tenders, two snorkels and a bowser are engaged in the rescue operation, while around 50 firefighters are currently trying to douse the fire.

The officials said more people are trapped inside the mall and efforts are being made to bring them to safety.

Rauf Hamid, who was rescued from the building, told Geo News many people are still trapped.

“When the fire broke out, we saved ourselves by rushing towards a safe room. The smoke was so intense that we didn’t understand what was happening.”

CM Baqar takes notice

Sindh Caretaker Chief Minister Justice (retd) Maqbool Baqar has expressed regret over the loss of life in the wake of the deadly fire.

The chief minister has ordered urgent measures to control the fire and has asked for the injured to be provided immediate medical aid.

‘No fire extinguishing system’

Karachi Fire Rescue Commander Humayun Khan said the fire was probably caused by a short circuit.

“The shopping centre did not have a fire extinguishing system. Being centrally air-conditioned, there was no way for the air to escape,” he added.

Call centres in the shopping centre, he said, are operational 24 hours a day. “We were successful in rescuing 50 people.”

The Sindh Building Control Authority (SCBA) officials visited the shopping mall affected by the fire.

“The affected shopping centre falls under the jurisdiction of the Faisal Cantonment Board. Its map has not been approved by the Sindh Building Control Authority,” the SCBA official said.

Action to be taken against those responsible: DC

Karachi Deputy Commissioner (DC) Salim Rajput visited the site and ordered an inquiry into the incident.

“The buildings lacking security arrangements will be sealed. From tomorrow, all the deputy commissioners will collect data on buildings in their areas,” he said, ordering for action to be taken after the collection of records within 30 days.

“Legal action will be taken against those responsible,” he added.

Chief Fire Officer Mubeen Ahmed said the mall’s building has caught fire for the second time. “Two years ago there was a fire in the same building.”

He added that when a fire breaks out in such a building, cutting off the power leads to darkness and people usually panic in such a situation due to which chaos ensues.

“After completion of the rescue operation, it will be known whether fire safety equipment was present or not,” he said, adding that the process of search and rescue is underway inside the mall’s building after the cooling process is completed.

Bilawal aggrieved over loss of lives

Meanwhile, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has expressed regret over the fire incident, grieving the loss of precious lives.

The former federal minister has asked to ensure better treatment of injured people. He has also demanded that an immediate investigation be conducted to ensure the prevention of such incidents in the future.

Over 90% structures lack fire safety arrangements

At an annual symposium of the Fire Protection Association of Pakistan (FPAP) in Karachi, experts said that more than 90% of the industries, residential buildings and structures in the city — the largest industrial hub of Pakistan — lacked fire safety arrangements, as building codes were not being implemented by the authorities concerned, The News reported.

The experts added that around 12,000 to 15,000 people die in hundreds of fire incidents in the country every year, in which losses of hundreds of billions are also incurred due to violation of building codes, unavailability of fire safety arrangements, and lack of training and awareness among people.

They also called for teaching fire safety measures at school, college and university levels to make people aware of the steps they should take during natural and man-made disasters and calamities.