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Two firemen, six women among 18 injured in garments factory fire

The third-degree inferno was fuelled by chemicals stored in an adjacent warehouse

By our correspondents
May 05, 2015
As the International Firefighters Day was marked across the globe, two officials of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation’s (KMC) fire department were among the 18 people injured when a blaze erupted at a garments factory in Metroville, SITE on Monday.
The fire erupted at Valika Textile Mills, situated within Site-A police station, around 11 in the morning and the leaping flames eventually spread to the chemical warehouse situated next to it.
With added fuel from the chemicals, the fire spread rapidly and its thick black flames made it hard to breathe in the area. Goods worth millions of rupees were reduced to ashes.
According to officials of KMC’s fire brigade department, initially six fire tenders arrived at the site, however, when the fire couldn’t be contained aid was called in from all over the city.
A total of 20 fire tenders of the KMC, and two more, one each of the Karachi Port Trust and Defence Housing Authority were utilised in dousing the fire.
Due to the burning of chemicals stored in the warehouse, the fire brigade officials termed it a third-level blaze.
Chief fire officer Ehtesham disclosed to The News that out of the 20 fire tenders, a few were empty and did not have any water. It was learnt that none of the snorkels could reach the site because they weren’t in working condition. There was one bowser as well, but it too was bereft of any fire extinguishing material.
The staff of district municipal corporation West broke the walls of the factory with heavy machinery so the firemen could go inside and douse the flames.
He confirmed that at least 18 workers, including six women and two firemen, received serious burn wounds and were taken to the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital. The injured firemen were identified as Bilaluddin and Irfan Ali.
The fire brigade officials stated the cause of the fire to be an electrical short circuit, however, eye-witnesses on the occasion said there was no electricity in the area when the fire erupted.
However, officials of the K-Electric and Sui Southern Gas Company duly came and cut off power and gas connections.

Siddiqi takes notice
Karachi commissioner Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqi took serious notice of the lapses of KMC’s fire brigade department and wrote a letter to Administrator Saqib Ahmed Soomro.
Talking to The News on Monday after visiting the factory on directives of the Sindh chief minister, he expressed concern over how the fire department did not work efficiently to put out the third-level blaze.
He expressed surprise that even though all fire tenders were called from across the city, they were unable to handle douse the blaze.
In his letter to the KMC administrator, the commissioner asked him about all the snorkels not being in working condition. He also directed the KMC administrator to acquire foam for the fire tenders.
He requested the administrator that utmost importance must be given to fire-fighting capacities of for the sake of public safety.
The commissioner also took notice of the lapses in KPT’s fire fighting department and wrote to its chairman about getting its snorkel and other equipment repaired.
Meanwhile, the Sindh chief minister and governor also expressed their concerns and stressed efficient maintenance of the fire fighting equipment.
Industrialists seek attention

Industrialists’ concerns
The Site Association of Industries, in October and November last year, had written letters to the Sindh chief minister, commissioner Karachi and KMC authorities to bring to their notice the ‘pathetic’ condition of Site fire station.
In his letter written to the commissioner Karachi Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui, dated October 1, 2014, the association chairman Jawed Bilwani highlighted the dilapidated state of the Site fire station.
He had apprised the commissioner about the unavailability of diesel for fire tenders and the absence of a single snorkel in an industrial area.
He had pointed out that around 3,500 industries were situated in the area however, the fire station lacked basic equipment and facilities to function. The missing facilities include lack of drivers, water, adequate tools, absence of staff and the empty 50,000-gallon tank at the fire station.
In another letter, written on November 7 to the chief minister, Bilwani had also drawn his attention to the missing facilities at the fire station.
He had pointed out that the local fire station only had four fire tenders and out of them only one was in working condition.
In another letter, the association chairman had called for an independent inspection of the fire station.
All the letters were also forwarded to and received by KMC’s senior director of municipal services Masood Alam and the incharge of Site fire station.