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LAHORE: Almost all schools, shopping centres, markets and restaurants in all sectors of the Defence Housing Authority were closed as the frightened parents rushed to schools to pick their children and those present in the Z-block area for any reason left the spot in panic soon after the bomb blast.

Terror-stricken parents started gathering outside schools while owners, employees and security staff at all plazas, particularly in Z-block, instantly started closing their businesses.

“I was standing outside the shop when I heard a powerful blast. The impact was so huge that it shattered several glasses of our shop,” said Dilshad, a security guard of a coffee shop situated nearby an under-construction building where the blast occurred.

“Everyone was crying and running in panic to leave the area at once. The customers sitting in our café also rushed out in horror and the shop in-charge and other staff shut the business immediately,” he added.

Amjad, another security guard at a store nearby the blast site, said the situation forced closure of all sorts of businesses in the market. “We also closed our store after all customers went out hurriedly. Our building’s glasses also shattered. Many people were running advising each other to look for a safer place as another blast may occur,” Amjad told Dawn.

Shahzad, a man standing nearby a leading food chain restaurant in Y-block, said he saw frightened customers coming out of the food outlet hurriedly and the staff closing down the business soon after the blast.

Yousaf Masih, a rickshaw driver, who was present outside a building nearby the entry to the Z-block market, said he saw several people running towards a leading private sector school to pick kids.

Afzaal, an employee of a private firm, said he rushed to the school where many parents were already gathered. “All were frightened. Later, the school administration closed the school and allowed us to pick our kids,” he added.

According to a DHA spokesman, the DHA administration didn’t ask for closure of schools, but the situation forced administrations of schools to shut their institution on their own. “The blast truly traumatized the parents who were reported to have rushed towards schools to get the custody of their children,” he added.

He said the DHA administration had also decided to keep all of its schools and colleges open on Friday (today).

However, he said, he couldn’t make certain the opening of those schools which didn’t fall in the DHA’s education system.

The markets, schools and restaurants in other DHA sectors were also shut after the bomb blast. Thin presence of customers was reported in restaurants and major shopping malls of the city.

Meanwhile, the Lahore administration and police has advised the public to lend no ear to rumours being aired to create panic.

“The news of another bomb blast in Gulberg proved to be mere rumour after our rescue and other teams rushed the spot,” Lahore’s deputy commissioner Sumair Ahmad Syed told Dawn.

Capital City Police Chief retired Captain Amin Wains also advised the citizens to remain calm and avoid believing in any rumour. “There was no blast in Gulberg. It was just a rumour,” he added.

Published in Dawn, February 24th, 2017