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Sunday February 25, 2024

11 perish in Karachi mall fire tragedy

Fire reportedly broke out in a generator installed on the roof due to a short circuit while Karachi Police chief has formed a committee to ascertain the cause of the fire

November 26, 2023
People gathered outside the RJ Mall, a multi-storey shopping mall on one of the city’s busiest arteries, the Rashid Minhas Road on Nov 25, 2023. —Facebook/sirmurad
People gathered outside the RJ Mall, a multi-storey shopping mall on one of the city’s busiest arteries, the Rashid Minhas Road on Nov 25, 2023. —Facebook/sirmurad

KARACHI: Eleven people lost their lives and about half a dozen others were injured when a major fire broke out in a multi-storey shopping mall on one of the city’s busiest arteries, the Rashid Minhas Road, on Saturday.

The sixth-storey building housed a shopping centre, call centres and software houses where the fire broke out at around 6:30am. After getting the information, fire tenders from the Fire Brigade Department immediately arrived and started to extinguish the fire. The power supply in the building was also suspended.

The fire reportedly broke out in a generator installed on the roof due to a short circuit while Karachi Police chief has formed a committee to ascertain the cause of the fire.

The dead and injured were taken to the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Center, Abbasi Shaheed Hospital and Civil Hospital, Karachi, for autopsies and treatment. The JPMC received nine bodies, while one body each was rushed to the CHK and ASH.

Police Surgeon, Karachi, Dr Summaiya Syed, confirmed the number of casualties while talking to The News. “The victims died of suffocation,” she said and added that two of the bodies were taken away without medico-legal formalities. Three injured were brought to the JPMC and two at CHK.

The deceased aged between 22 to 55 years. They included 35-year-old Wahajuddin, son of Rahimullah, Asad, 25, son of Yaqoob, Kareem Buksh, 32, Younus Yousuf, 43, Bilal Asif, 30, Kashif Anis, 55, Bilal, 23, son of Tajuddin, and Salman, 32.

One of the victims identified as Muhammad Bilal worked in the Food Court on the fourth floor. He worked the night shift, which ended at 4am but he stayed behind. Bilal’s family said this was not the first such incident of fire in the building. Bilal was the eldest among two sisters and two brothers.

Bilal’s friend, Salman, also lost his life in the fire incident. Deceased Kashif was the finance manager at a call centre.

Initially, two fire tenders were dispatched to the mall; however, later more fire tenders and a snorkel were rushed. At least one dozen fire tenders with around 50 firefighters, two snorkels and two water bowsers participated in the operation. According to fire brigade officials, around 45 others trapped inside the RJ Shopping Mall were rescued in the operation.

The firefighters controlled the fire after around five hours while later, they continued the cooling process as well as the search and rescue operation.

Initial findings suggested that the fire broke out due to a generator placed on the roof. The building’s upper floors filled with smoke, posing challenges to rescue operation. The fire spread from the roof to lower floors of the building.

Fire brigade official Ishtiaq Ahmed told the media that there were no firefighting tools in the building to extinguish the fire. He said in the current emergency situation, there is no way to exit the building. The officer said that private offices are located on the upper floor of the shopping mall. The fire has caused damage from the sixth floor to the fourth floor of the building, which also caused damage to several shops.

Deputy Commissioner Altaf Sheikh, who was personally supervising the rescue operation, confirmed that there were no firefighting tools available inside the building. “Considerable damage has been caused by the fire in shopping mall and presence of thick smoke has made rescue operations challenging.”

Fire Rescue Commander Karachi, Humayun Khan stated that the fire in the shopping mall is likely due to a possible short circuit, and there was no system in place to extinguish the fire in the shopping center. He mentioned that the call center in the shopping center operates 24 hours, and the rescue of 50 people was successfully carried out.

Officials from the Sindh Building Control Authority also visited the affected shopping mall. They said the affected shopping center falls within the limits of Faisal Cantonment Board and Sindh Building Control Authority did not approve the plan for the shopping center.

Meanwhile, following the deadly fire incident at the shopping mall in the city, Caretaker Sindh Chief Minister Justice (retd) Maqbool Baqar has taken a serious notice of the absence of fire safety and security arrangements at commercial and government offices in Karachi.

The CM directed the Sindh Building Control Authority, Provincial Disaster Management Authority, Civil Defence and deputy commissioner/assistant commissioner concerned to carry out safety audits of all public and commercial buildings, educational institutions and government offices and submit their inspection reports along with recommendations.

A committee has been formed to investigate the incident. Additional Inspector General of Police, Karachi, Khadim Hussain Rind, has formed a three-member investigation committee, with Deputy Inspector General (DIG) East Ghulam Azfar Mahesar as its head. The committee includes Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) East Irfan Bahadur and SSP Saud Magsi. The committee will complete its investigation within seven days and submit a report. It will also identify persons responsible for negligence.

The commissioner Karachi also visited the shopping mall and issued instructions for an inquiry. He stated that buildings lacking safety measures would be sealed, and all deputy commissioners have been instructed to gather data on buildings in their respective areas. After 30 days of data collection, action will be taken. The commissioner mentioned that legal action will be taken against those responsible.

Sindh Governor, Kamran Khan Tessori, while regretting the loss of lives in the tragic fire incident in Karachi, has directed Karachi’s commissioner to submit to him a probe report of the blaze.

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, health minister and others also took notice of the fire incident. Karachi Mayor Barrister Murtaza Wahab expressed sorrow over the loss of precious lives in the fire incident.