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ISLAMABAD: A fire broke out at the Tarnol police station late Monday night, police said, and gutted the station’s storeroom.

Police said the storeroom, also known as a mall khana, was gutted and all the items recovered by the police were destroyed. They said the fire broke out under unexplained circumstances and burned for four hours. Although the cause of the fire has yet to be determined, they said it appeared to have erupted due to a short circuit.

The fire broke out before 11pm in the station’s basement, where the storeroom is. Police said smoke reached the first floor and caught the attention of police in the building.

The officials attempted to go to the basement but were unable to due to the smoke and because there was only one entrance into the basement. The station was vacated and it took firefighters over four hours to extinguish the flames. Rescue officials too faced significant difficulty while entering the basement.

Police said all the items in the store, including weapons, narcotics, liquor, ornaments and cash had been destroyed. A police official told Dawn rescue workers arrived at the station after an hour and could not find a way into the basement.

He added that the cause of their delay was not known, but senior officials are looking into whether they were delayed because the police informed them late or for another reason.

The Tarnol police station had one of the wealthiest storerooms in the capital, he said. The Tarnol police seized greater quantities of narcotics – including heroin, opium and hashish – and liquor than other police stations in the capital.

The number of weapons seized by the Tarnol police was also higher than other police stations, he said.

He said such contraband was smuggled or transported through Tarnol or Golra, because of which they were regularly confiscated and their carriers apprehended.

He said the Tarnol police are making a list of items destroyed in the fire. So far, the list of weapons includes 15 semi-automatic rifles, two SMGs, 10 38-bore guns, six MP5s and 8,500 rounds of various kinds of ammunition that were completely damaged.

The police official said the Tarnol police claimed the fire broke out due to a short circuit, but a probe would be conducted soon to establish the facts.

Published in Dawn, May 31st, 2017