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Here's everything you need to know about Ayesha Manzil furniture market inferno

Police say reason behind quick expansion of fire to over hundred of shops was apparently mattresses’ godowns

December 07, 2023

The deadly inferno, which gutted over one hundred shops at Karachi’s Ayesha Manzil furniture market and residential complex, was extinguished after the loss of five lives and merchandise worth millions.

The six-storey commercial-cum-residential building — named Arshi Shopping Centre, on Shahrah-e-Pakistan near Ayesha Manzil in District Central’s Federal B Area — caught fire on Wednesday evening with residents of the building present inside at the time of the deadly incident.

Talking about the incident, a shopper said that he was dealing with customers when a huge fire suddenly erupted at around 5pm and engulfed the entire maker within no time.

Central SSP Abdullah Chachar said that the reason behind the quick expansion of fire to hundreds of shops was apparently mattresses’ godowns. However, the exact cause of the fire is yet to be determined.

According to eyewitnesses, initially, the blaze erupted in a mattress shop located at the front of the shopping plaza and later it spread to the entire floor.

Talking to Geo News, the police officer said that the ground and mezzanine floors of the building were being used for commercial purposes. There were over 130 shops and 74 residential apartments in the building.

Four out of five deceased — who died in the inferno — have been identified so far. They were identified as Ghulam Raza, 35; Nouman Baig, 38; Mustafa 20; and Riza, 30.

The blaze was extinguished and the cooling process is still underway. Currently, no one is allowed to enter the shopping plaza until the relevant department declares the building safe.

The government will form a committee to assess losses in the fire.

It was not the first time that inferno engulfed precious lives in the metropolis. Last month, at least 11 people died after a huge fire erupted in a multi-storey shopping mall on Karachi’s Rashid Minhas Road.

The absence of fire-fighting equipment and emergency exits in multi-storey buildings was the failure of the authorities concerned.

Talking to Geo News outside the Arshi Shopping Centre, another shopkeeper said that the blaze had ruined him. “I had been doing business in the market for the past 12 years,” he said, adding that he used to buy goods on credit. The shopkeeper was worried about how he would return the payment as the fire turned the goods into ashes.

Another shopkeeper said: “Within 13 to 14 minutes the fire gutted the entire market.” He complained that the firemen reached the spot late.

“First fire tender reached the spot at around 5:50pm.”

The merchant urged the government to take measures so that this would not happen again in the metropolis. He further said that no government official has contacted them for compensation.

Another claimed that the fire tenders reached the spot over one hour late.

Earlier today, a Sindh Building Control Authority team visited the affected building. Talking to the media, SBCA Additional DG Banish Shabbir said the fire did not damage the infrastructure of the building, adding that the residential flats in the building are safe.

Meanwhile, Sindh caretaker Chief Minister Justice (retd) Maqbool Baqar also visited the site and expressed sorrow over the incident. The provincial chief executive said he has already ordered the authorities concerned to carry out the buildings’ inspection and fire audit across the port city. “We will try to enforce the building laws,” he added.