LAHORE: A huge fire broke out during a live Sehri programme in the studio of Kohinoor news channel on Allama Iqbal Road in Garhi Shahu on Monday, leaving five people dead and 13 others injured.
The police took Mahmood Ahmad Ansari, the channel’s owner, into custody.
Witnesses and the police said the blaze erupted due to a short circuit in a studio light at around 3:45am which burnt the whole studio at the third floor of a three-storey building.
Firefighters of the Rescue 1122 and City Fire Brigade battled the blaze for about three hours. The victims were transported to Mayo Hospital by Rescue 1122 and Edhi ambulances.
An employee of the channel told Dawn that the host was conducting a mehfil-i-naat in the presence of several naat khawans and participants at the time of the incident.
He said three naat khawans and two others died of fatal burns and suffocation while a couple of channel employees, including the programme host, were also among the injured.
He said the channel was conducting a six-hour live Sehri transmission daily.
Rescue 1122 and police inquiries revealed that sparks erupted in the lighting system and fell on insulations and wooden sets.
The poorly-installed electricity wiring also caused minor explosions. The fire engulfed the whole studio and the people in no time.
The fire also created a stampede among some 50 channel employees and participants who failed to find an exit door because of substandard arrangements.
Their hue and cry alerted the people outside who started putting out fire and evacuating the victims besides alerting the rescue services and police.
DIG (Operations) Rai Muhammad Tahir said it appeared that people trapped because of ill-designed studio and lack of an emergency exist and fire-extinguishing equipment.
He said building by-laws were also apparently violated in setting up of the studio, adding the victims couldn’t come out of the studio due to structural faults.
The DIG said a case under sections 302/34 and 427 of the Pakistan Penal Code had been registered against channel owner Mahmood Ahmad Ansari on the complaint of Saif’s father Muhammad Aslam Butt of Badami Bagh.
Tahir said the owner had committed negligence and failed to make his studio secure from all aspects.
The district coordination officer and senior police officers also visited the spot and ordered to seal the studio for forensic evidence.
A visit to the scene by this reporter showed that the single-door entry into the studio was found locked and sealed with a police tape and a policeman was present on duty.
Although the police said the office had been sealed, a channel employee, speaking to Dawn on the condition of anonymity, said the studio was being renovated and it was likely that the Sehri transmission would resume on Tuesday (today).
The Rescue 1122 personnel identified the dead as Salman Naseer of Salamatpura, Kamran Khan of Kothian Bagh, Saifur Rehman of Badami Bagh, Safeer-i-Mustafa of Manga Mandi and Rasheed Dogar of Gawalmandi.
The injured were identified as Junaid Khalid, Qaiser, Yaqoob, Habib Rasheed, Asim, Abdul Hasan, Muddasir Husain, Shabbir Rafique, Tahir, Munir, Mazhar, Hamid and Gul Zaman.
Police handed over the bodies to their families without autopsies.