MNA’s father among 15 die in Karachi drain gas blast

Published December 19, 2021
KARACHI: People and rescue workers gather at the site of the drain gas blast in the Shershah area on Saturday.—Reuters
KARACHI: People and rescue workers gather at the site of the drain gas blast in the Shershah area on Saturday.—Reuters

• Bank structure, petrol pump, vehicles damaged • Four out of 16 injured said to be in ‘serious’ condition
• Officials rule out possibility of sabotage
• CM orders thorough probe

KARACHI: Al least 15 people were killed and 16 others injured when a building housing a private bank in the Shershah area collapsed on Saturday due to a huge gas explosion in a nullah on which it was constructed, according to officials and witnesses.

The death toll is feared to climb up, as doctors described the condition of six of the injured as serious. Among the deceased was father of the ruling party’s lawmaker Alamgir Khan, Dilawar Khan, while most of others who died were bank employees or clients.

In a tweet, Prime Minister Imran Khan stated: “My heartfelt prayers & condolences go to all the families of victims of the twin blasts at Sher Shah Paracha Chowk, Karachi. I am especially saddened to hear of the loss of our MNA Alamgir Khan’s father who also perished in the blast. May Allah give him strength to bear this loss.”

Officials have ruled out the possibility of any sabotage or terrorist act declaring that the explosion took place due to accumulation of gases in the sewerage line. However, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah directed the Karachi commissioner to conduct a thorough inquiry in consultation with police.

The bank building, a nearby petrol pump and some vehicles were damaged in the explosion caused by accumulation of gases in the drain underneath, officials at the Site police station said. Subsequently, they said, contingents of police, bomb disposal unit and rescue workers rushed to the spot and started retrieving the bodies from under the debris.

Dr Sabin Memon, head of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Trauma Centre at Dr Ruth Pfau Civil Hospital Karachi, said: “Fifteen people have died in the incident.” He said 16 injured were also brought for treatment. Eight of them were discharged after being provided first aid and an equal number of people were admitted for treatment. “Two of them have suffered life-threatening injuries and condition of four others is also relatively serious,” he said.

The head of the trauma centre described fallen debris as the cause of death. He said no smell of chemical or explosive substance from the bodies was noticed. All the deceased and the injured were men, he added.

Deceased, survivors identified

Dr Qarar Ahmed Abbasi, Additional police surgeon at Dr Ruth Pfau Civil Hospital, said that 13 people had been brought dead at the hospital and two died during treatment. He said the deceased were identified as Mirabat Khan, Dildar Khan, Zeeshan, Mohammed Yunis, Inamullah Shah, Shafiullah Khan, Zahid Husain, Junaid Zehri, Naseerullah Khan, Sooba Khan, Dilawar Khan, Rashid Khan, Islam Khowaja, Mohammed Shafiq and Altaf Idrees. Some of the injured were Ghulam Mustafa, Mohammed Arshad, Ghulam Akbar, Jameel Ahmed, Abdul Ghaffar, Hammad, Riaz Mehmood, Kashmir Khan and Abdul Wahab.

In a statement, Karachi police spokesperson said the explosion took place due to accumulation of gases, ruling out possibility of any sabotage or terror act. The bomb disposal squad officials, who examined the blast site minutely, also confirmed to the authorities that it was a gas explosion.

According to a BDS report reviewed by Dawn, the blast occurred inside the sewerage line at the private bank and petrol pump near Shershah’s Paracha Chowk. The bank offices and nearby showroom offices were badly damaged ‘due to sewerage line gas blast’, causing loss of human lives, according to the report.

DIG (South) Sharjeel Kharal said police investigators had collected CCTV footage from the damaged building of the private bank and nearby place. Samples of the debris from the bank and the drain was also obtained and sent for a forensic analysis, he said, a proper investigation was under way.

An Edhi Foundation spokesperson whose ambulances shifted the bodies to the hospital said that almost all the victims were either employees of the bank or customers.

Area police officer Zafar Ali Shah recalled that a similar sewerage line explosion had claimed one life and damaged a restaurant in the same area some months ago. He recalled that a notice had been served to the bank to vacate the place, as it was situated on the drain.

Minister for Information and Labour Saeed Ghani told the media that the bank building was constructed ‘illegally’ on the drain and rented out by the industrial association, SITE.

Published in Dawn, December 19th, 2021

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