Five minor children, including two brothers, lost their lives on Sunday morning after they went swimming in the water being stored at a construction site near their homes in Sector 7-D of Surjani Town.
Their families had warned them against going near the water body, so they waited until their parents went to bed after Sehri to head out to the construction site for a swim.
Since the water body was deep, none of the children could save themselves from drowning. Some locals had spotted them struggling and shouted for help, following which police and rescuers arrived on the scene.
The divers took around 20 minutes to retrieve the children, but all of them had died before reaching the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital. After completing the medico-legal formalities, the bodies were kept at the morgue in the UP Morr area.
Police said the water body was 14 to 15 feet deep. District West police chief SSP Fida Hussain Janwari said water was being stored there for using in the construction of a multi-storey building.
Officials said they have not found any criminal aspect in the incident, but they are investigating the case based on the evidence gathered from the site and the witness accounts. A case will be registered against the builder if any criminal negligence is found, they added.
The children were identified as Masood Attari, 13, his younger brother Usaid Attari, 8, Arman Tahir, 13, Zubair Abdul Ghaffar, 12, and Furqan Tariq, 11. All of their houses were in the same street.
Their families said they had no idea their children could go for a swim at the construction site even after they had been warned to stay away. They also held a protest against the builder as well as the Karachi Water & Sewerage Board.
They claimed that the builder had not put up any safety barriers around the water body, while not even a watchman was there on duty to stop anyone from swimming.
Zubair’s elder brother Muhammad Omair said his brother was a fifth grader and seventh among eight siblings. He added that the child had been insisting on swimming in the water body after Sehri, but his family told him not to.
Omair lamented that his brother still went out for a swim with his friends. “There is 15 to 20 feet deep water at the plot, where usually older men used to swim, which made the children do it too. There’s no boundary wall around the plot and no safety barriers.”
Fareed Ahmed Attari, father of brothers Masood and Usaid, told the media he repairs refrigerators and air conditioners. He said he had four children. “Now I have only two daughters because my sons have been lost in this tragedy.”
Attari said Masood was his eldest son and studied at a madrasa, while his younger son had just started going to school. He said he had always stopped his sons from going to the construction site for a swim.
The funeral prayers of the five children were offered near their homes in Surjani Town. Besides their family members and relatives, the funeral was also attended by a large number of political leaders, including the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan’s Amir Khan. The minors were later laid to rest at a local graveyard.
‘Beyond SBCA jurisdiction’
After the five children drowned, the Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) clarified that the forming of the water body was beyond their jurisdiction, adds our correspondent.
SBCA Demolition Squad incharge Ali Mehdi Kazmi told The News that the matter will be investigated on Monday (today). The authority’s spokesman Farhan Qaiser said they had already submitted an entry in the police station.
“Anything within the building line is the jurisdiction of the SBCA. Sewage outside the plot line, illegal property and unauthorised property — these are not in the jurisdiction of the SBCA.” He said the district administration will be in a better position to explain the reason for the water body. He explained that its digging is not construction.
“Construction means [involvement of] cement, iron,” he said, adding that any digging without approval is beyond the limit of the building authority. As for the builder, he said they are checking his whereabouts with the district administration and the area officer.
Meanwhile, expressing sorrow over the incident, Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhtar claimed in a statement that the water body had been formed by the builder mafia. He demanded that strict action be taken against those responsible for it.
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