Fire at bazaar causes millions worth of damage

Published July 19, 2018
Firefighters gesture as they extinguish fire at the weekly bazaar in Islamabad on Wednesday. — Photo by Tanveer Shahzad
Firefighters gesture as they extinguish fire at the weekly bazaar in Islamabad on Wednesday. — Photo by Tanveer Shahzad

ISLAMABAD: A massive fire gutted a significant section of a weekly bazaar of the capital city on Wednesday.

Fortunately, no one was hurt in the blaze that erupted at the H-9 market, since it had been closed. However, damage worth millions of rupees was caused.

Around 110 stalls in Blocks E and F, which housed second-hand garments and carpets, were completely destroyed. A few dozen stalls were also partially damaged.

Malfunctioning power-generation devices may have been the cause

The fire erupted at noon and spread quickly. Thick clouds of smoke billowed from the site of the blaze and visibility was almost zero at a distance of five feet.

It is yet to be established how the fire erupted and from which section of the market. What is known, however, is that the guard deployed there spotted the fire at a point when it had already spread and engulfed dozen of stalls.

A section of the Kashmir Highway was shut down during the duration of the firefighting operation to provide unencumbered movement to rescue workers, fire engines and water tankers. The firefighters encircled the affected area and started dousing the fire with water from all four sides, thus succeeding in saving the adjacent areas. Scores of fire engines and water tankers, and dozens of firefighters and volunteers, were involved in the effort.

Initially, workers faced problems because the fire would erupt repeatedly from the smouldering piles of ash and cloth. Eventually, firefighters had to enter the smoke-filled stalls and spread out the charred piles so that the fire could be extinguished completely. It took almost four hours to put the blaze out.

CDA official Haider Imam told Dawn that the cause of fire was yet to be established, adding that the three guards at the bazaar had all been arranged for by stallholders. After last year’s fire incident, 80pc of the generators were removed from the bazaar, he stated, adding that the remaining generators were also being removed gradually. Each stall is worth approximately Rs500,000, he said.

Another official stated on the condition of anonymity that the bazaar had no power supply, so all stallholders use generators, UPS devices or solar panels. The fire could have erupted due to a malfunction in any of these, he said.

A purveyor of second-hand garment, Ahmed Khan, told Dawn that the Section E had 138 stalls and Section F 128. Most of the stalls in Section E were gutted. He said that garments and clothes worth about Rs2.5million to Rs3million were stored in each stall, and alleged that the incident was arson at the hands of those who wanted the area vacated due to vested interests.

Mohammad Amin, another stallholder, told of how he and his colleagues reached the spot to find all the guards missing. Stallholders had hired 30 guards to look after the bazaar during closed days, he added, while accusing rescue workers of reaching the site late.

Mir Azam, a guard at the old Weekly Baazar of G-9, told Dawn that some 12 years ago, fire had erupted in a stall of the old bazaar. The guards extinguished it before it spread.

In August last year, fire similarly erupted in the same H-9 bazaar, also on a Wednesday. Over 600 stalls in Block C and H were gutted.

Industrial Area police said nobody had lodged a complaint as yet.

They said the stallholders had sought time till Friday as they want to chalk out a strategy and then lodge a complaint.

The police, however, suspect that somebody had set fire to the garbage near Section E which caused the fire.

Published in Dawn, July 19th, 2018

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