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October 22, 2020

Five killed, several injured in Karachi ‘gas’ explosion

Top Story

October 22, 2020

KARACHI: Panic gripped the city after a loud explosion took place in Karachi’s densely-populated Gulshan-e-Iqbal area on Wednesday morning, killing five people and wounding 22 others. The deadly explosion took place at a ground plus four storey residential building, namely Noor Apartments located at Maskan Chowrangi in Karachi’s Gulshan-e-Iqbal within the jurisdiction of Mobina Town police station. The building is just opposite to the University of Karachi gate, having banks and commercial shops on the ground and mezzanine floor.

The loud blast was heard miles away while the windowpanes of nearby buildings and vehicles parked were shattered. It also badly damaged the first two floors of the building, which also weakened the foundations of the building. Many motorcyclists and motorists besides pedestrians were injured by the falling debris and shards of glass.

Volunteers from different welfare associations reached the explosion site and started a search and rescue operation. However, the rescuers faced massive difficulties as the stairs of the building were also damaged. Heavy machinery was also called to the explosion site to remove the debris. A heavy contingent of law enforcers, including police and Rangers, also reached the explosion site and cordoned it off and helped the volunteers in the search operation.

The casualties were shifted to different private and government-run hospitals, including Patel Hospital, Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Center and Abbasi Shaheed Hospital where the condition of three injured people was said to be critical. Three of the deceased persons were later identified as 28-year-old Amir, son of Abdul Majeed, Yasir, 18, son of Siddique, Syed Khalid, son of Sultan Ahmed, while the remaining are yet to be identified.

Earlier in the day, a list of casualties issued by the provincial health department stated that four people were killed and 30 others, including women, wounded in the explosion. On the other hand, police later in the day confirmed that a total of five people lost their lives and 22 others were wounded. “Five people died and 22 others wounded in the explosion,” confirmed Gulshan-e-Iqbal SHO Safdar Mashwani while talking to The News. “So far, no case has been registered but a case will be registered as casualties occurred in the explosion.”

Due to the intensity of the explosion, the investigators initially believed that the blast was caused due to explosive material and called experts from the bomb disposal squad to determine the nature of the explosion. The BD experts, however, ruled out the possibility of terror activity behind the explosion and concluded that the explosion occurred due to leakage of natural gas. According to an initial report prepared by BD experts after the examination of the explosion site, no explosive material, IED or any evidence suggesting an explosive device was found from the explosion site. “We have also found a stove burner and other materials from the explosion site which have been handed over to the police,” the BD expert clarified. “The explosion occurred due to natural gas leakage.” SHO Safdar Mashwani said that it was yet to be determined from which point the gas leakage occurred. Earlier, it was reported that the gas leakage occurred in the bank located on the ground and mezzanine floors of the building.

A spokesperson for the Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) said that the blast was not due to leakage in gas pipeline; however, he said that the supply to the building had been switched off for safety purposes. According to SSGC: “It was found that the gas was leaking in an in-house pipe under the personal use of a customer. In accordance to Oil Gas Regulatory Authority's (OGRA) and Government of Pakistan’s laws and directives, the standard of house pipe, its maintenance and any gas leakages are the sole responsibility of the customer, whereas SSGC is responsible for the service line, gas meter and regulator.” The statement added that there had been no damage to any service line, valve and gas meter at the site of the blast. All gas pipelines and all domestic gas meters along with three commercial meters installed at the blast site remained undamaged.

Following the explosion, senior Pakistan People's Party leader and Education Minister Saeed Ghani also visited the explosion site to inquire about the incident. Footage circulated on the media showed how the explosion badly damaged the infrastructure of the building. Ghani said that all the casualties had been retrieved from the building while the occupants were evacuated from the building. “The building is now no longer habitable and will have to be razed to protect the lives of residents,” he said.

Pakistan People's Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Chief Minister Sindh Murad Ali Shah had earlier taken notice of the incident and directed the authorities concerned, including commissioner Karachi, to submit a detailed report of the incident. They also instructed officials to provide treatment to the injured and expressed sadness over the loss of lives. Several other political figures including PML-N’s Maryam Nawaz, PTI’s Haleem Adil Shaikh and Ali Zaidi also expressed deep sorrow over the loss of innocent lives.

Sindh Inspector General of Police Mushtaq Mahar also took notice of the incident and sought a detailed report from the District East SSP Sajid Saduzai and asked him to submit a report over the incident immediately.

The Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) has declared the damaged building hazardous. According to director SBCA, Ali Mehdi, the structure of the building had been badly damaged in the blast, while the damaged building can become the cause of another huge untoward incident.

"Free of cost treatment is being provided to all the injured, while the cause of investigation is being investigated,” said commissioner Karachi, Dr Sohail Rajput, who also visited the site. The commissioner added that the affected building will be demolished and the debris will be removed.

Administrator Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) Iftikhar Ali Shallwani also visited the site of the blast at Maskan Chowrangi and reviewed rescue work. The Maskan Chowrangi blast comes a day after unidentified terrorists exploded a bomb planted on a bicycle in the Shirin Jinnah Colony, injuring six people.