Death toll reaches nine in New Karachi van fire tragedy

Published January 12, 2020
People offer funeral prayers on Saturday for the victims of Friday’s road tragedy.—PPI
People offer funeral prayers on Saturday for the victims of Friday’s road tragedy.—PPI

KARACHI: The death toll in Friday night’s vehicle fire incident in New Karachi reached nine as three more persons died on Saturday during treatment, officials said.

Six members of a family, including four children, died and five suffered critical injuries when a fire broke out in a moving vehicle in New Karachi area on Friday night.

Initial investigations into the tragedy blamed a short-circuit for the fire that rapidly spread and engulfed the vehicle because of the presence of a petrol-filled bottle.

The victim family was on their way to attend a marriage ceremony in Gulshan-i-Iqbal from Surjani Town.

Investigators say the blaze had engulfed the vehicle because the driver kept a petrol-filled bottle near the engine

Bilal Colony SHO Fardad Shaikh said that the family had rented the vehicle, a Suzuki Hi-roof van, from Surjani Town and it caught fire near Do Minute Chowrangi causing injuries to 11 persons.

They were taken to the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital where doctors pronounced six of them dead on arrival.

Additional Police Surgeon Dr Saleem Shaikh said that all the deceased suffered 100 per cent burns.

He added that five injured persons were shifted to different hospitals for treatment. Three of them died later, said a spokesperson for the Edhi Foundation.

Dr Ehmer-al-Ibran, the head of the Burns Centre at the Dr Ruth Pfau Civil Hospital Karachi, told Dawn that two brothers with critical burn wounds were shifted to the hospital.

He said that Jamal, 45, had received 81pc burn wounds and his chances of survival were very low. His young brother, Nasir, 30, had received 32pc burns and doctors were trying to save his life.

He said that due to inhalation of smoke and fire, their respiratory tracts and faces had been badly burnt. He said such cases were known as ‘inhalation injuries’ in which affected/burnt persons faced immense difficulties in breathing.

Cause of fire

Following the incident, the police called Bomb Disposal Squad (BDS) and fire brigade to ascertain the exact cause of the fire.

SSP Central Arif Aslam Rao said that it was up to the experts to determine the cause of the fire. He added that the police had not received any report to this effect.

Area SHO Shaikh said the BDS in its initial report observed that there was no explosive material in the vehicle and the cause of the fire was a short-circuit.

The officer said that the driver of the van, who is a friend of the ill-fated family, also sustained minor burn injuries in the incident.

He told the police that he got out of the vehicle because of a thrust as soon as the fire broke out. The vehicle continued to move and hit a rickshaw which also caught fire.

He said that the fuel bottle was kept close to the engine (carburettor).

A fire official said that the both the van and rickshaw were completely destroyed in the fire.

The dead are identified as Mujeeb Rehman, 55, his wife, Neelofer, 50, Mehrunisa Nasir, 32, her three children, Afshan, 12 and Tufail, 9, and Hafsa, Laiba, 12, and her younger brother, Arslan, 7, and Sufiyan, 4.

City police chief Ghulam Nabi Memon told Dawn that the experts of the BDS were of the opinion that there was no explosion and in their opinion, the possible cause of fire may be either short circuit or presence of petrol.

Published in Dawn, January 12th, 2020

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