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November 26, 2020

SHC expresses concern over lack of fire tenders in Karachi

Karachi

November 26, 2020

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Wednesday expressed serious concern over 30 dysfunctional fire tenders in the city and observed that it was alarming that the city of over 20 million had only 14 fire tenders available.

Hearing a petition on Wednesday with regard to the implementation of the safety by-laws under the Building Code of Pakistan, a division bench of the SHC headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar asked the chief fire officer of the fire brigade department about the working condition of the fire tenders.

The chief fire officer submitted that there were 22 fire stations in the city, in which only 14 fire tenders were in a working condition while 30 fire tenders were out of order for the last six months.

He submitted that the dysfunctional fire tenders had not been sent for maintenance so far. The SHC inquired a provincial law officer which authority was responsible for the maintenance of the fire tenders, to which he replied that the responsibility lied with the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation.

The high court issued a notice to the KMC commissioner and directed the corporation to initiate the maintenance work of the 30 out-of-order fire tenders. The bench was informed by the civil defence department deputy controller that 80 per cent of the city buildings did not have emergency exit and no hydrants or safety equipment were installed there. He submitted that most of the multi-storey buildings had no access to fire brigade vehicles.

He submitted a reply, stating that the Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) should be asked not to issue completion certificate of any commercial or industrial residential buildings without inspection and no objection certificate under safety laws and the building code of Pakistan.

The high court directed the SBCA to file comments with regard to mechanism and coordination with the civil defence department for inspection of the buildings to ensure fire exit gates and safety measures.

The SBCA director sought time to file comments on behalf of the authority. The assistant commissioner said the Commissioner Office had already set up a fire emergency control room to attend to fire complaints.

The SHC observed that one telephone line was not enough to cater to the need of the general public and directed the Commissioner Office to file comments with regard to increase in the helpline.

The bench was informed that the fire helpline service was out of order after heavy rains in the city in August, to which it directed the national transmission corporation to file comments on the non-functional helpline of fire emergency since August.

The additional commissioner submitted that the task force had convened a meeting and decided some action plans for the implementation of building safety laws and sought time to file the same.

The SHC directed the task force to submit a mechanism of how they carried out the inspection of different buildings and industrial factories to ensure that the said establishments were following and observing all the safety measures.

The high court observed that there must be some proper procedure and mechanism for conducting the inspection in all such establishments in a fair and transparent manner. It directed the task force to submit comments by December 8.

On a previous hearing, the bench had directed the SBCA to apprise the court if the plans for the construction of multi-storey buildings anywhere in the province were checked for fire safety before the authority approved them.