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September 11, 2017

Two killed in Awami Markaz fire


September 11, 2017

Islamabad :At least two people were killed and five others injured after the fire erupted in Awami Markaz here on Sunday. The intensity of the fire fissured the building, which could cave in at anytime.

The building, located close to the state-run television channel headquarters and a five-star hotel, at Constitution Avenue and houses several private and government offices including Ministry of Industries, Federal Tax Ombudsman and was declared the Software Technology Park-One.

A fire that broke out at the Awami Markaz building in the Red Zone was contained late Sunday afternoon, but the fire which had reportedly been 'cleared' by the capital's fire department re-emerged before it was finally contained by the efforts of firefighters and the Pakistan Navy.

To douse the fire, fire-tenders from Baharia Town were called in at Awami Markaz, which doused the fire amidst blowing winds in the capital city. Initial reports stated that the fire erupted in the upper floors of the six-story building, however, later officials said the fire began on the ground floor near an office of the Federal Tax Ombudsman. The record placed in the ombudsman's office was also said to have been completely destroyed.

Rescue officials said the two people who died did not need to jump from the building as a fire exit was available. They added that the two worked at a call centre inside the building and were injured from the fall. They were shifted to separate hospitals but succumbed to their injuries.

Seven fire tenders were on site to douse the flames the first time around, according to rescue officials. The firefighters were able to extinguish the blaze in around an hour and later continued the 'cooling efforts' after which they left the venue.

However, when rescue teams began going floor-by-floor, sparks led to another fire which was fanned by blowing winds in the city. Later, fire tenders doused the flames after two-and-a-half hours of the rescue operation which erupted at around 7:30am. Rescue workers said they broke the building’s windowpanes to enter into the premises and safely evacuated 12 people. The search is still on for the missing watchman of the building.

Acting Islamabad Deputy Commissioner Farasat Khan, talking to media revealed that when the cooling operation was under way on the third and fourth floors, the fire restarted after it received oxygen as the doors were opened by rescue staff. "All measures are being taken to control the situation," he assured.

Sources said the fire was reportedly caused by short-circuiting but investigations will determine the exact cause of the flames. Two vehicles parked in the building's parking area were also damaged as a result of the fire. Rangers and police were on site to assist in rescue efforts when the incident occurred, and fire tenders of Baharia Town, Pakistan Air Force and Pakistan Navy participated in the dousing operation.

The acting deputy commissioner of Islamabad has formed a four-member committee in heading of Additional Deputy Commissioner General Shoaib Ali to probe the incident. Among other members of the committee includes Director CDA E&M, AC Secretariat and SP City Islamabad. The committee has been tasked to prepare its report within next three days and identify the reason of the fire and also evaluate the estimated loss in the fire incident.

It is worth mentioning here that more than 150 buildings in the capital city have been identified for not having appropriate emergency exit way with proper mechanism to tackle any emergency situation. Among these sensitive buildings of the capital city includes Nadra headquarters, Foreign Office Building and Commissioner House of Islamabad Capital territory.

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