RAWALPINDI: City police have called forensic experts and mobile laboratory from Lahore to help determine the cause of a devastating fire which killed an entire family of seven on the upper storey of a house in Chaklala Scheme III early Wednesday morning.
They died of suffocation, not of burns, according to a police officer.
A brother of Shaukat Ashraf, the head of the dead family and lived nearby, also had died in a fire incident few months ago and the owner of the house had large property in Raja Bazaar and other parts of Rawalpindi, the officer said.
Shaukat is said to have taken a second wife recently after his first wife died of cancer.
Police say none of the seven victims bore burn injuries and bodies were found scattered
Although Rescue 1122, which put out the fire within two hours of its eruption at 5am, blamed the tragedy on “electrical short circuit”, the Airport police had their own suspicions about the tragedy.
Anjum Shahzad, who lived on the ground floor, said that heat and smell of burning woke him up and he hurriedly evacuated his family. But the fire was too strong for him to go and try to save his relative Shaukat Ashraf and his family living upstairs.
Shaukat Ashraf, his wife Ayesha and their children Fatima, aged 18 months, Usman six years, Umar 10 years, Mohsin 8 years and Hassan 14 years died of suffocation in the inferno. Their bodies were removed to the District Headquarters Hospital for autopsy.
A Rescue 1122 official said, “Apparently, loose wiring of the Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) device caused the fire and the woodwork in the house fed the fire.”
However, a senior police officer would not rule out foul play. Investigations would clear the true cause of the fire and death of the seven-member family, he said.
“It is a mystery that neighbours heard no cries from the entrapped family during the whole incident. How is it possible?” he told Dawn. “The autopsy report will make it clear if the family members had been drugged to make them unconscious. They bore no burn injuries and died of suffocation.”
The Airport Police SHO Sattar Khan confirmed that the victims of the mysterious fire did not receive any burn injuries.
“Their bodies were found scattered, not in their beds. The child’s dead body was found in a washroom at different places. We will thoroughly investigate the matter by interviewing neighbours and relatives and seek help of forensic experts and laboratory tests to reach the bottom of the incident,” he said.
DHQ Hospital Medical Superintendent Dr. Khalid Randhawa told Dawn that the postmortem of seven victims had been conducted and samples dispatched to Lahore for laboratory examination. The bodies have been handed to heirs.
“After the report of pathological examination is received, the real cause of death will be determined,” he said.
Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2015