Monday June 24, 2024

Blaze erupts in Lahore airport’s departure lounge

Sources say first Hajj flight scheduled to depart from airport temporarily halted, seven other int'l flights delayed

By Ahmed Faraz
May 09, 2024
People are queued at the International Departures counter at the Allama Iqbal International Airport, Lahore, in the still taken from a video uploaded on June 14, 2023. —YouTube/ Mansoortastic
People are queued at the International Departures counter at the Allama Iqbal International Airport, Lahore, in the still taken from a video uploaded on June 14, 2023. —YouTube/ Mansoortastic

LAHORE: A blaze erupted at the Allama Iqbal International Airport's departure lounge in the wee hours of Thursday because of a short circuit in the ceiling of the immigration counter, Geo News reported citing airport authorities.

As a result of the fire, immigration system of the Lahore airport was burnt, the authorities said, adding that the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) staff put out the inferno after a struggle of few hours. However, smoke still impeded the immigration process and flight operation.

Meanwhile sources told Geo News that the first Hajj flight scheduled to depart from the same airport was temporarily halted, while seven other international flights were also postponed.

But authorities clarified that the immigration process of Hajj pilgrims was resumed from the domestic counter.

Meanwhile, Federal Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi has sought an investigation report on the fire incident at the immigration counter. “The immigration counter will soon be made functional for passengers’ facility,” he said.

Conversely, as per the sources, preliminary report of the airport inferno was presented to Minister for Defence, Defence Production and Aviation Khawaja Muhammed Asif and the secretary aviation. As per the report, the fire erupted in the airport’s international departure area at 5:23am and it was controlled by 8am.

“The pilgrims and other passengers faced trouble because of the departure lounge’s getting filled with smoke. The fire damaged the [Federal Investigation Agency] FIA immigration system,” it said, as per the sources.

The report apprised that the CAA fire tenders did not reach at the airport within the response time and the fire department officials did not implement the standard operating procedures as well. The sources said, as per the rules, there was a fixed response time to put out the fire at the airport.

Whereas, the aviation minister has ordered a high-level inquiry into the incident.

On the other hand, the CAA spokesperson said situation at the airport was gradually getting back to normal as all the agencies present on the airport were making efforts in this regard.

“As soon as the technical issues are overcome, normal operations will be restored,” the spokesperson said. He also relayed that the four Hajj flights scheduled from the airport were operated.

As per the new Notam, duration of international flight operation’s suspension at the Lahore airport was extended from 3:30pm to 10pm now. Since the inferno incident, 24 local and international flights have been cancelled.

It should be noted that the Ministry of Religious Affairs had, on May 3, announced that Pakistan would operate 11 special flights to transport 2,160 Hajj pilgrims to Saudi Arabia on the first day of the scheduled operation, including 670 passengers from Lahore via three flights, 330 from Karachi via two flights, 680 from Islamabad via three flights, 329 from Multan via two flights, 151 from Sialkot via a single flight.

The ministry spokesperson stated that the month-long Hajj 2024 flight operation would commence from May 9 to June 9.

All flights scheduled for the first 15 days would land at the Madina airport, while most flights will land at the Jeddah airport from May 24 to June 9, the spokesperson had said.

Subsequently, the first Hajj flight from Balochistan would take off from Quetta on May 11, and from Sukkur on May 27.

Pakistan will operate a total of 259 Hajj special flights for over 68,000 pilgrims registered with the government scheme, the ministry had said, adding that the special operation would conclude on June 9.

Later, the country would resume its flight operation on June 20 to bring pilgrims home post-conclusion of the sacred pilgrimage, it concluded.