SSGC rejects gas leakage theory in building blast

Updated 24 Oct 2020

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Security personnel and rescue workers are seen amid the debris of a multi-storey building that was damaged after an explosion in Karachi on October 21. — AFP
Security personnel and rescue workers are seen amid the debris of a multi-storey building that was damaged after an explosion in Karachi on October 21. — AFP

KARACHI: As the death toll in Wednesday’s blast in a multistorey building in Gulshan-i-Iqbal rose to six on Friday, the Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) raised a serious objection to the police probe which claimed gas leakage as the reason behind the deadly explosion. However, the police investigators insisted on their findings and asserted that they had “enough reasons and evidence” to stick to their version of events.

The SSGC in a statement described the “gas leakage” as “wrongful attribution” for the explosion and shared details of its own findings from the site of the incident claiming that its supply was intact with no history of any complaint from any consumer.

“The reason for the blast was wrongfully attributed to the leakage of natural gas,” said the SSGC statement.

“However, there is ample evidence to suggest that this was not the case, in light of the below mentioned facts. As an established protocol, SSGC’s emergency teams rushed to the blast site and as a precautionary safety measure, instantly switched off main gas supply to the building. The teams found out that there was no damage to any service line, valve and gas meter at the site of the blast,” the statement said.

It added that all gas pipelines and all domestic gas meters along with three commercial meters installed at the blast site also remained undamaged.

It said that of late neither the SSGC helpline nor the company’s social media pages received any gas-related complaint from residents of the said apartment.

Police stand by their claim

“It is also important to point out that the commercial bank below the building did not have a SSGC gas connection,” it said. “As television reports showed, residents and eye witnesses categorically dispelled any sign of gas leak since no one sensed a pungent smell of a leak. CCTV footage clearly showed a powerful explosion that had no trappings of blasts, usually associated with gas leakage. In fact, if it was the case of a leakage, there would have been a massive fire following the blast, as well. However, all one saw was the crumbling debris and [shards] of glass and no blackened and burnt out infrastructure.”

Police unconvinced

However, the police authorities remained unconvinced by the gas company’s argument.

The investigators while referring to a final report of the detailed examination of the blast site by the bomb disposal unit found another key lead to strengthen their findings. The police officials said that heirs of one of the deceased persons had submitted a separate application before the police for registering an FIR against the bank management as their alleged negligence caused the explosion.

“The widow of a man, who died in the blast and lived just over the floor of the mezzanine floor of the building where the bank branch had its kitchen, has formally submitted the application,” said SSP East Sajid Sadozai. “The woman has clearly mentioned that her family had more than once in a month asked the bank management to check their gas connection in the kitchen because they could notice smell constantly coming to their apartment. There might be no problem in main line connection, but it’s fact that the people in that particular part of the building were complaining of the gas smell for a month.”

Published in Dawn, October 24th, 2020