800,000 gallons of water fail to put out raging fire in Karachi's superstore

Published June 4, 2022
Two days after a fire broke out in a superstore basement near Jail Chowrangi, firefighters still continue to hose the flames on Friday.—PPI
Two days after a fire broke out in a superstore basement near Jail Chowrangi, firefighters still continue to hose the flames on Friday.—PPI

KARACHI: Despite passage of over 50 hours and use of 800,000 gallons of water, the fire in the basement of ‘illegally’ built warehouse of a famed departmental store located in a multi-storey building (Summaya Bridge View) in PECHS Block-3 near Jail Chowrangi on Shaheed-i-Millat Road had not been completely controlled until Friday evening, admitted officials.

An official of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation’s Fire Brigade said in evening that 10 fire engines were still busy in cooling work of the third-degree fire.

A young student of Karachi University lost his life and three other people, including one firefighter, were injured besides 170 families were displaced since Wednesday 11:30am when the fire erupted.

“Frankly speaking, no one now believes that the fire has been controlled,” admitted deputy commissioner East Raja Tariq Chandio.

Tonnes of cooking oil hoarded in basement fuels the blaze

He pointed out that the firemen had claimed ‘four times’ that the blaze had been controlled, but the fire keep erupting in the basement repeatedly.

The DC admitted that so far they had been throwing water at ‘smoke’ while the actual fire remained inside the basement.

The Sindh government was utilising its resources to control the blaze, but despite passage of over 52 hours, the fire was still not controlled.

The DC Chandio said that when the fire would be completely controlled, they would ask the Sindh Building Control Authority to inspect the damage to the structure of the multi-storey building.

Unauthorised use of car park

The senior bureaucrat said that an issue was that the basement had been built for parking purpose, but it was misused by owners/proprietors of the Chase store for storing eatables and other things.

The DC said they had reports that since price of cooking oil were going to be increased; the owners of the store had stored ‘tonnes of cooking oil’ in the warehouse, which fuelled the fire.

Mr Chandio admitted that the fire erupted again on Friday afternoon and it went up to upper floor of the building reserved for parking causing damages to a few motorbikes there.

Apart from presence of huge quantity of cooking oil “another major problem being faced by the firemen was lack of access to the basement”, the DC added.

He said so far, the firemen had been trying to control smoke emanating from there.

“The walls have been demolished and at least 14 holes have been made to throw water inside the basement to stop fire from spreading,” revealed the DC.

He said not only water but chemicals had also been poured inside to control the fire.

The DC, Tariq Chandio, disclosed that 800,000 gallons of water had been thrown inside the basement, which had been filled 50pc with water, rising five to six feet above the basement ground.

He said such a huge quantity of water had reduced the heat there. Initially, the water was being drained out on roads, but it created problems for traffic and caused other issues, therefore, now efforts have been made to drain the accumulated water inside the basement to sewerage lines/drains.

The DC said an FIR had been registered against the owners of the superstore but admitted that so far no one had been arrested.

Published in Dawn, June 4th, 2022

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