Two people were burned to death and at least three others suffered burn injuries when a fire broke out at an oil terminal in Karachi's Keamari area on Thursday, officials and eyewitnesses said.
The blaze erupted in the Shell Oil Depot at Keamari Terminal-1 following which three people were shifted to the Burns Centre of the Dr Ruth Pfau Civil Hospital Karachi with injuries, according to police.
Jackson police Station House Officer Malik Adil Khan initially said five employees of the private oil company were reportedly present when the fire broke out and the whereabouts of two of them were not known. However, the officer in the evening said two burnt bodies were recovered from the site.
The deceased were identified as Shahid and Salih Mohammed.
The fire was brought under control by 10-12 fire tenders of the Karachi Port Trust (KPT) and KMC Fire Brigade after hectic efforts lasting around four hours, the officer added.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Shell Pakistan Limited said the incident occurred as a PSO import line of 20 inches diameter "passing inside Shell Pakistan’s terminal 1" at Keamari caught fire.
They said authorities acted quickly to control the fire and emergency rescue services along with the Shell Pakistan team were present at the site and "extending their support in ensuring the safety of every personnel present at PSO terminal".
"Pakistan being an import-reliant country needs to ensure the most stringent of [safety] compliance in terms of pipelines for the fuel supply coming into Karachi and Shell Pakistan is willing to support all stakeholders in this regard so that such unfortunate incidents can be avoided," the spokesperson added.
An official of the KPT fire department said they received information about the blaze at about 1:05pm. The fire tenders managed to control the fire at 3:30pm, however, cooling work went well into the evening.
The official said the exact cause of the blaze may become clear after experts submit their final report.
A spokesperson of the Edhi Foundation whose ambulances shifted the wounded to hospital said they had received serious burns.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Pakistan Rangers Sindh in a statement said that the fire had erupted in a petrol unit at Keamari oil terminal-1.
Rangers personnel along with rescue services reached the site of the "huge" fire and cordoned off the area, the statement said.
It added that the paramilitary force's members also took part in efforts to rescue the victims and control the fire. In order to extinguish the blaze, water tankers were summoned from the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board hydrants and fire tenders from the Fire Brigade, according to the press release.
Personnel and fire tenders of the Pakistan Navy also assisted in efforts to control the fire, a Navy spokesperson said.
In the evening, South Deputy Inspector General Javed Akbar Riaz said the fire had been extinguished completely.
Karachi Commissioner Sohail Rajput ordered an inquiry into the blaze and appointed the additional commissioner-1 to ascertain its causes and fix responsibility. The inquiry officer has been asked to seek experts' help to this effect, according to a press release.
In the report of the inquiry, which will be completed within a week, the inquiry officer has also been directed to recommend measures to prevent similar incidents from taking place in the future, the statement said.
The KPT in a statement said a first information report (FIR) of the incident was being lodged against "those responsible for the incident".
Oil supply suspended
The fire affected oil supply to the entire country after the All Pakistan Oil Tankers Owners Association (APOTOA) advised tanker owners, drivers and cleaners to stay away from the affected oil depot for their safety.
The supply of oil from the terminal was suspended on APOTOA senior vice-chairman Mir Shams Shahwani's orders and it will be restored considering the situation after the fire is completely extinguished, the association said in a statement.
Shawani later told Dawn.com the supply will be restored at 9am on Friday after necessary checks are carried out.
The statement said APOTOA representatives were fully cooperating with the administration of Shell Pakistan Limited.
Shahwani requested Prime Minister Imran Khan, the petroleum minister and the secretary petroleum to increase security along the depot and take additional precautionary measures to avoid such incidents in the future.