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RAWALPINDI: Punjab Home Department has directed the Civil Defence Department to launch a crackdown on the high-rise buildings and small industrial units which have not adopted fire safety measures.

The department has also been directed to seal the buildings if their owners failed to comply with the home department’s directives.

The home department had directed the owners to take fire safety measures after the frequent cases of fire incidents last month in which more than 10 people including six women died.

Punjab asks Civil Defence Department to launch a crackdown on high-rises

A senior official of district administration told Dawn that several buildings in Saddar and Murree Road as well as other main commercial areas needed fire safety equipment.

However, he said not only high-rise buildings but the small industrial units dealing with chemicals in the different areas too did not have fire safety equipment.

According to district administration survey last year, there are more than 200 small industrial units established

in thickly-populated areas such as Raja Bazaar, Dhoke Dalal, Dhoke Ratta, Khayaban-i-Sir Syed, Bangash Colony, College Road, Sadiqabad, Glass Factory, Pirwadhai, Asghar Mall and Bagh Sardarn.

These small-scale factories manufacture and prepare goods using chemicals and other inflammable material, but they did not have firefighting system and if they have it is not in working condition.

Under the Local Government Ordinance 2001, no industrial unit can be established or commercial activity carried out in residential areas.

The Punjab government had asked the district administrations across the province to remove illegal factories from residential areas. But, the directives of provincial government fell on deaf ears of the officials concerned in district administration and Rawalpindi Municipal Corporation (RMC).

A senior official of the district administration said there was a dire need of clearing the rooftops of every high rise building of cell phone towers and billboards so that rescue efforts could be carried out effectively in emergency situation.

He said the officials concerned should inspect whether the building codes regarding emergency exit and routes had been followed in the under-construction high-rise buildings.

When contacted, Civil Defence Officer Talib Hussain said that the Punjab Home Department had tasked the civil defence to launch a crackdown on those commercial building owners who did not install fire safety equipment on the premises.

He said the department had formed four teams each comprising six personnel. He said that these teams would start the campaign in Rawalpindi city and cantonment areas from Monday.

He said the department had already issued notices to more than 16 marriage halls and hotels in Saddar and Committee Chowk and godowns in Rawalpindi district to install firefighting equipment.

He said according to the initial survey, approximately all the commercial buildings especially in Raja Bazaar and Saddar had not been properly equipped with fire safety measures.

He said according to building bylaws, essential safety measures were required in commercial, industrial and public buildings to ensure the safety of occupants in the event of a fire or emergency.

He said that the department would issue challans to the owners of high-rise buildings to start process of installing the fire safety equipment within a week.

“If they failed to install it the property would be sealed,” he said.

Published in Dawn, February 3rd, 2019