Worried shopkeepers assess their losses caused by fire on Monday. —Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
Worried shopkeepers assess their losses caused by fire on Monday. —Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

• Cooling process continues
• No fire safety at market
• Association suspects sabotage

KARACHI: The Sindh government on Monday formed a committee to probe into the incident of fire that broke out in the Saddar Cooperative Market on Sunday and destroyed dozens of shops.

The blaze that erupted on Sunday evening was controlled after hour-long hectic efforts, but the cooling work continued till Monday evening in which one fireman suffered burn wounds.

While traders suspected some foul play, police said that an electric short-circuit might have started the fire because work to install electric meters was going on in the market on Sunday. Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah said a survey was being made to assess the losses caused by the fire.

The secretary of the Sindh cooperative department, Dr Naseemul Ghani Sahito, told Dawn he formed the inquiry committee led by cooperative housing authority director Ijaz Ahmed Khatri and directed him to submit a report within 15 days.

He said the inquiry committee would ascertain possible causes of the fire.

He said the shopkeepers claimed that around 400 shops on the ground floor of the market were gutted in the fire. He said shops on the first and second floor mostly owned by tailor and being used as warehouses.

Dr Sahito said he visited the market in 2018 and wrote a letter to the association warning them about the “lack of a firefighting system”.

According to the letter dated May 8, 2018, attention of the association has been drawn towards “dismissal security system” prevailing in the market in respect of the firefighting.

“This state of situation was observed by the secretary cooperative department on his visit on April 26, 2018 as he (secretary) deplored the prevailing security system,” it said, adding: “Watch and ward system (along with keys of doors of the building) is being looked after by you (the honorary secretary of the market), therefore the utmost responsibility lies on you regarding security system especially with regard to firefighting.”

He had directed the market association to “beef up security system to pre-empt any untoward incident in future”, saying: “This office would not be held responsible for your lack of expertise and firefighting system in case of emergency.”

Traders intend to lodge FIR

The Preedy police said that fireman Sikander Ali, 55, suffered burn wounds while carrying out the cooling work at the market in the small hours of Monday morning.

He was shifted to the Burns Centre of the Dr Ruth Pfau Civil Hospital Karachi for treatment.

Area SHO Sajjad Khan said around 60 fire engines had took part in the firefighting operation that was completed at around 2am or 3am.

He said a delegation of shopkeepers led by the market president came to the police station on Monday for lodging an FIR as they suspected some foul play. However, they were called by the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry for a meeting.

The SHO said the shopkeepers claimed that there were 400 shops on the ground floor of the building and almost 98 per cent of them were destroyed. They said there were 180 shops on the first floor and 80pc of them were damaged.

He said that some representatives of the market association claimed that they had suffered around Rs1 billion losses.

The SHO said that the report of the fire brigade with regard to the cause of the fire was still awaited.

Published in Dawn, November 16th, 2021

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