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Days after a blaze took the lives of 12 people at Karachi's Regent Plaza Hotel, the administration in a press released claimed the fire brigade took an hour reaching the scene of the fire with the necessary equipment.

In a press release, the administration claimed the hotel staff called the fire department as soon as the fire started at 3am, but the fire brigade which responded to the call lacked necessary equipment like snorkels and gas masks.

By the time the necessary equipment was brought to the scene, an hour had elapsed and hotel staff had kickstarted a rescue operation on their own, eventually rescuing some 600 guests, the statement said.

The hotel administration said it had made all the arrangements for fire safety in accordance with the law, elaborating that there were three fire exits on each floor and information regarding these exits was available in each room.

Twelve people, including five doctors, were killed and over 80 others injured in the fire that broke out in the hotel’s kitchen on the ground floor and spread to its other parts. Most people died because of suffocation since smoke spread to rooms through air-conditioning ducts.

While the departments concerned have yet to ascertain the exact cause of the fire, administration manager Major Mohammad Saad suspected that the fire was started by a short circuit in one of the freezers on the ground-floor kitchen.

Regent Plaza warned to revamp electric system a year ago

An independent expert body on Tuesday claimed that it had carried out an inspection about a year ago and warned the owners about the vulnerable and dilapidated electrical system that posed a serious threat to people’s lives.

A private electrical safety and audit assessment organisation, the Electrical Inspector Pakistan (EIP) which was designated by the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry to carry out random inspections of affiliated organisations, revealed its one-year-old report that showed serious flaws on the part of the hotel management.

“On behalf of the task assigned by the KCCI, we inspect business facilities randomly to check all their electrical system,” said Engineer Wali Muhammad Rahimoon of the EIP. “So we had inspected two hotels about a year ago. This one [Regent Plaza Hotel] and another one near the Chief Minister House and we found the electrical system of both hotels almost collapsed.”

Rahimoon said he and his team had informed the management of the two hotels about the situation and advised them to revamp their electrical system as early as possible, as they were not only violating local and international standards as well as the Electricity Act and Nepra Act, but also posed a serious threat to lives of people.

However, the hotel management could not be reached for comment on Rahimoon’s disclosures.

Meanwhile, SSP-South Saqib Ismail said that the police had requested the Civil Defence and fire department to either establish the element of criminal negligence, if any, or declare the incident purely an accident.

“They [Civil Defence and fire department] have been requested to report whether all safety measures were in place or not,” he said. “If not, was there any criminal negligence on the part of the hotel management?”

He explained that the departments would inform the police about basic technical facts that included existence of emergency exits, in-house alarm and fire-fighting system in working condition and the response from the designated staff.

The SSP said if a case of criminal negligence established by the departments concerned, the police would move in line with the defined rules for a proper investigation.