KARACHI: At least 250 shops were destroyed when a huge fire broke out in the Gold Mark market in Defence, causing losses of millions of rupees, prompting shopkeepers to stage a sit-in on the main Korangi Road over an alleged delayed response of fire stations.
They, however, agitated over the non-removal of a panaflex from the multi-storey building despite a ruling of the Supreme Court to that effect, officials, witnesses and affected shopkeepers said.
The blaze erupted in the market at around 11.15pm on Friday, Karachi-South SSP Saqib Ismail Memon said.
The officer said after receiving information about the fire in the busy market, he rushed to the spot. Initially, two fire engines arrived to control the blaze. Realising the gravity of the situation, more fire engines were sent.
According to a fire brigade official, fire tenders from all over Karachi were called in to the control the situation.
He pointed out that at least 20 fire engines managed to control the blaze at around 6am on Saturday. However, the cooling work continued for four more hours, the Defence police said.
Defence SHO Aurangzeb Khattak told Dawn that at least 250 shops were destroyed in the fire as two floors of the building were completely gutted.
The SHO said a short circuit might have caused the fire.
On Saturday morning, the affected shopkeepers blocked the main Korangi Road in protest. They blocked the main road for around an hour causing traffic jam on the road and in nearby streets.
Speaking to journalists, the shopkeepers claimed that they had closed lights and generators of the busy market on Friday when they left it.
They said that the blaze appeared to be an outcome of a short circuit.
They claimed that a panaflex installed on the building might have caused the fire as it continued to get electricity in night.
They lamented that billboards and panaflex had been removed in the city selectively as the panaflex installed on their building was not being removed.
It could not be ascertained as to who had installed the panaflex on the building.
The shopkeepers also claimed that fire engines did not arrive on time and did not entertain their requests when they told fire fighters that they knew exact routes leading to the fire spot.
They also regretted that there was allegedly a dispute over jurisdiction between fire stations belonging to the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation, Defence Housing Authority and Clifton Cantonment Board.
One shopkeeper was seen visibly shaken as he claimed that his several shops were gutted in the fire.
As blockade of the main road continued for considerable period, SSP South Saqib Ismail Memon and the deputy commissioner of South and other officials held talks with protesting shopkeepers.
The officials convinced the shopkeepers to vacate the road.
Later on, talks held between a delegation of the Gold Mark shopkeepers and authorities at the office of the SSP South after which “the shopkeepers ended their protest,” said the senior police officer.
It was decided in the meeting that two committees would be set up, which would be led by assistant commissioner of Saddar.
One committee would assess damages caused by the fire and submit its recommendations to the provincial government for possible compensation to the aggrieved shopkeepers, SSP Memon said.
The other body led by the same assistant commissioner would conduct an inquiry to ascertain cause of fire and fix responsibility, added the officer.
Saqib Ismail Memon said that most probably a short circuit might have caused the fire.
The officer estimated that the financial loss could be in millions of rupees.
Published in Dawn, August 7th, 2016