ISLAMABAD: A fire broke out in the Press Information Department (PID) building Wednesday afternoon, causing damage to the building, which consists of several blocks, and destroying financial records.
No serious injuries or loss of life was reported in the accident, rescue departments including the Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad (MCI), said. However, three staffers sustained minor injuries who were sent home after being provided medical assistance at a hospital.
“Over 70 people were trapped in the building during the fire,” a rescue worker said, adding that many of the staffers were on the eaves on the first and second floor, waiting for the rescue teams to come.
Committee to be formed today to ascertain damage, incident logged in daily diary of Aabpara police but no formal complaint has been made
The employees were brought down to safety via ladders.
Army officials under the supervision of a lieutenant colonel and majors cordoned off the building after firefighters had almost extinguished the fire.
They took control of the building and made deployments inside the building and at the main gate.
Army officials also collected details of the buildings including the number of offices it contained.
Relevant officers in capital administration and the Capital Development Authority (CDA) said they had not called the army and that army officials had come as PID is a government building and holds records.
MCI officials said an incomplete emergency call was made to the fire department to inform it of the incident.
However, the caller did not give further details including the name and location of the building.
“Officials of the fire department had come to the mosque for prayers when they saw the smoke and found that the PID building was on fire,” an official said.
The cause of the fire is yet to be established and it is also not yet known where it started.
PID employees have contradictory accounts of the incident. According to these statements, the fire started either in the ABC Department, the Directorate of Electronic Media and Publication or the Benevolent Fund Office.
“The fire may have started in the southern part of the front block’s mezzanine floor,” a firefighter said.
He said it spread to adjacent rooms and corridors, helped by the false ceilings and the wooden partitions.
A large part of the mezzanine floor and the first floor was burnt.
It took 20 fire engines and 250 rescue workers two hours to put out the fire.
Rescue workers said a large number of the office records were burnt in the fire which was corroborated by PID and Benevolent Fund staff.
PID staff said records were moved to Directorate of Electronic Media and Publication and the Benevolent Fund Office a few days ago.
Many rescue workers and PID staff believe the fire might have been arson.
“The fire started in working hours but employees including security did not inform the fire or emergency departments of the CDA’s disaster wing,” an official said, adding that only an incomplete call was made in which the location of the fire was not mentioned.
The officials said legal proceedings were going on against the Benevolent Funds Office in the Supreme Court as well.
In 2013, MCI had issued an advisory to the PID building, telling the management to install and repair equipment and facilities used to deal with emergency situations, including fire, but the MCI did not receive a reply from the PID, officials said.
Press Information Officer (PIO) Shafqat Jalil said the fire did the most damage to Directorate of Electronic Media and Publication and that the extent of the damage is not yet known.
The PID block was partially damaged in the fire, he said, adding that a committee will be constituted on Thursday to ascertain the extent of the damage.
When asked, the PIO said he had no information of the Directorate of Electronic Media and Publication records being burnt and that he also does not know anything about the moving of the records a few days ago.
The Aabpara police told Dawn the fire had been entered in the daily diary but no complaints were lodged so far for the registration of a case.
Published in Dawn, October 25th, 2018
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