Fire tenders look small in front of the huge fire that broke out and spread from a polyester yarn warehouse in the SITE area on Monday.—PPI
Fire tenders look small in front of the huge fire that broke out and spread from a polyester yarn warehouse in the SITE area on Monday.—PPI

KARACHI: All you had to do to reach the factory in flames in the SITE area on Monday was let the jet black smoke clouds guide you. They could be seen from afar.

“The fire started early, around 9am. I was preparing breakfast for myself then. Suddenly something smelt very different and I thought I had burnt my breakfast, which really wasn’t the case. Then I saw smoke along with yarn flakes flying around like sparks coming out from behind there,” Akhtar Mohammad, a guard at one of the godowns, pointed to behind the buildings on his lane. “That was when I raised alarm,” he said.

But the fire tenders and water tankers, which arrived shortly afterwards, despite several trips, were finding it very difficult to control the flames that soon spread to adjoining godowns and factories. “It took a while to bring in the heavy equipment that could break the godown gates and wall for the fire tenders to reach there and by that time the fire had spread,” he explained.

“There was utter panic and confusion here, as workers of all the godowns and factories ran for safety. Some of the women fainted but it looked more like they were having fits of hysteria rather than experiencing suffocation,” said another eyewitness Mohammad Younus.

“Around 800 people work here but it is good that all of them had not yet arrived as it was still early when it all happened. So there was no loss of life,” he added.

Meanwhile, the godown owners who had arrived at the scene tried without success to salvage their property. Most of the material stored in the godowns was polyester yarn, which couldn’t be saved. There was also an automobile parts factory and store, which got destroyed in the fire. “Polyester yarn is a petrochemical product. During such a fire it goes up in flames just like that,” said a very worried owner of one of the godowns, who declined giving his name. “We import polyester yarn to use in local fabrics. Some 50 containers full of yarn has been destroyed in the fire. Latif Cloth Market, which we cater to, is entirely affected as a result of this fire,” he added.

Asked if the yarn and other things were insured, another owner only shook his head before informing that private godowns are not insured. As they helplessly watched their property burn to bits no one had a clue as to how the fire had started.

District Commissioner Mohammad Ali Shah, who was present there with his team, said the fire started at Nama Textile Mill’s godown where polyester yarn was stored. “At the moment, it doesn’t look like a short-circuit, as there was no power connection in the godowns. It could be the result of plain carelessness on the part of workers or owners. But we are looking into what could have caused the fire,” he told Dawn.

The medico-legal office at the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital said that they had treated seven women for smoke inhalation and suffocation before sending five of them home, while keeping two for observation.

Meanwhile, ambulances lined the road leading to the godowns. “They say the workers rushed out of godowns themselves. God forbid if anyone was crushed in the stampede and is lying there unconscious to be found later when the smoke clears,” said an ambulance volunteer late afternoon.

As several fire tenders went to refill water before returning to fight the blaze, a bystander remarked: “They have been doing this since morning but the flames are too stubborn.”

Published in Dawn, May 5th, 2015

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