LAHORE: A huge fire broke out at a Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited exchange on Egerton Road early on Sunday, badly disrupting cell and landline communications and internet services across the city and several other cities in Punjab.

Firefighters of Rescue 1122 and City Fire Brigade brought the blaze under control after hectic efforts of several hours. The fire continued erupting in the burnt structures at intervals and kept the firefighters engaged till afternoon.

Rescuers managed to evacuate some PTCL employees stuck in the building. No human loss or injury was reported in the incident.

Officials said the blaze erupted in one of the upper portions of the seven-storey building. It engulfed fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh floors and burnt telephone exchange and other installations.

Up to 45,000 PTCL landlines and 25,000 internet connections were reportedly disconnected because of the fire while services of U-fone, Warid and Zong were also badly affected.

Blaze at PTCL Egerton Road building

Residents of Lahore also failed to dial helplines like Rescue 1122, Railways, Rescue 15, Edhi ambulance and PIA flight inquiry.

Similarly, services of PTCL internet and private internet service providers were also affected.

In addition, people also faced difficulties in withdrawing cash from ATMs because of shutting down of One Link system.

Racecourse circle SDPO Raza Safdar Kazmi said the blaze erupted around 1:30am in one of the floors of the multi-storey building, adding the cause of the fire and its point of origin in the structure was not yet determined.

He said PTCL authorities could better tell the cause of the fire, nature of damage and losses.

It was reported that authorities had initiated repair work of the affected phone and internet lines by linking the system with the Garden Town PTCL exchange.

Lahorites found it difficult to establish contacts with people from outside city and country and vice versa.

“Dear wi-triber, service in your area has been restored with our backup links. Our connectivity was down due to a fire incident at PTCL exchange,” says a text message received by the private internet service’s subscriber on his cell phone in the afternoon. He said his PTCL landline number was also dead.

Quoted PTCL sources, the APP said the services would be restored in a few days.

The Lahore DCO said the fire was caused by short circuit as per initial investigations.

Published in Dawn, September 29th , 2014