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School van catches fire, four children receive burns

January 06, 2019

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THE gutted school van and the injured children (right) being treated in a hospital on Saturday.—White Star / Online
THE gutted school van and the injured children (right) being treated in a hospital on Saturday.—White Star / Online

KARACHI: Four children, including a girl, sustained burn injuries when a school van caught fire in Orangi Town on Saturday morning, said officials.

The van was carrying several children for a school-cum-seminary when a fire erupted in it at Orangi 7. The incident occurred at 8am. As a result four children received burn injuries.

Orangi Station House Officer Tasawar Jutt told Dawn that the school van had become stuck in the sand and gravel lying on the road apparently kept there for construction of extension of the Sindh Government Qatar Hospital there.

The driver and some children got off the van and tried to push the van when the fire erupted.

The area people rushed to the spot and with the help of water and soil they managed to control the fire and rescue the children.

Initially, the children were taken to a nearby Qatar hospital, which referred them to the Burns Centre of Dr Ruth Pfau Civil Hospital Karachi for treatment.

Two of them were discharged after first medical aid, the police and hospital officials said.

Additional police surgeon of the hospital Dr Qarar Ahmed said that the children received between three to five per cent burn injuries.

Dr Ahmed added that two children, Ali Jan, 7, and Ebadul Haseeb, 9, who sustained four and five per cent burns respectively, were admitted at the Burns Centre while Arif Junaid, 6, Eman Arif, 6, were discharged from the hospital.

A fire brigade official said that no one had informed them about the fire incident and added that they had heard that a short circuit had triggered the fire as the van had heated up.

The van’s inner portion was badly damaged in the blaze.

Orangi SHO Tasawar Jutt claimed that the fire erupted due to a short circuit.

He denied the reports that liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) leakage from a cylinder in the van caused the fire. However, witnesses attributed the fire to the leakage from an LPG cylinder.

One witness, Mohammed Aslam, told Dawn that he was taking his daughter to her school in the morning when he saw the driver and the children were trying to take out the van from the gravel where it had stuck.

The witnesses opined that since CNG stations were closed on Saturday, LPG gas was used to run the vehicle.

THE gutted school van and the injured children (right) being treated in a hospital on Saturday.—White Star / Online
THE gutted school van and the injured children (right) being treated in a hospital on Saturday.—White Star / Online

The LPG cylinder was also kept at ‘wrong place’ near the driving seat.

‘Bad smell was emanating from it,” claimed the witness.

“When the van started after being pushed, the fire erupted in it,” recalled the witness.

He said there were around 20 children travelling in the van.

He said that he and four or five other people rushed to the spot to rescue the children.

In the meantime, other area people also gathered there who managed to control the blaze with the help of water and soil.

He said that the driver of the van had initially taken the children to the nearby hospital but later on he disappeared.

Meanwhile the Orangi SHO said that one parent had approached them on phone saying he would get an FIR registered about the incident but they were still waiting for him to formally lodge a case to initiate legal proceedings into the case.

PTI lawmaker visits hospital

Meanwhile, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf lawmaker of Sindh Assembly Khurram Sher Zaman visited the Burns Centre and inquired after the health of the injured.

Talking to media, he said that installation of the LPG in vehicles was ‘a dangerous thing’.

He asked as to why the LPG cylinder was installed in the school van.

Mr Zaman also wondered as to whether the fitness certificate was issued to the van by the provincial transport department.

PMA demands law

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) has expressed serious concern over the fire tragedy and demanded a law to regulate operation of school vans.

“Unfortunately there is no check and law for school vans and anyone can start this business. The PMA believes that the government should take concrete steps to save the lives of schoolchildren,” it says in a press release.

The association called upon the government to devise a mechanism for registering school vans and make it mandatory for everyone to get registered with the government.

“The fitness certificate of every registered school van should be regularly checked and no van should be allowed to accommodate children more than its capacity.

“The school’s name and complaint number must be written on every school van. We think that the school management should also feel its responsibility and keep continuous check on vans and their drivers providing pick & drop to their children,” it says.

Fire breaks out in factory

A huge fire that broke out in a factory in New Karachi early on Saturday morning was put out after hectic efforts lasting for several hours. No one was hurt in the incident.

A KMC fire brigade official said that the blaze erupted in the factory at around 4am.

Four fire engines managed to control it at around 11am.

The official added that the exact cause of the fire and estimation of loss could not be stated immediately.

Published in Dawn, January 6th, 2019