Committee to probe Centaurus fire

Published October 11, 2022
Security personnel stand outside the sealed Centaurus Mall in Islamabad on Sunday. — Photo by Mohammad Asim
Security personnel stand outside the sealed Centaurus Mall in Islamabad on Sunday. — Photo by Mohammad Asim

ISLAMABAD: The capital administration has formed a seven-member committee to probe the fire incident at Centaurus Mall in addition to the registration of a case against unknown individuals for setting the skyscraper on fire.

The shopping mall was also sealed in light of the fire which started at 4pm on Sunday and engulfed the shopping mall within minutes. Initial reports suggested that the fire was started in the food court and spread quickly in all directions. The rescuers with the help of 14 fire engines and a helicopter managed to put off the fire after almost two hours, and rescued all the people present inside the building.

A senior officer of the capital administration told Dawn that all the officers concerned arrived at the mall within four to five minutes after the fire was reported.

“The fire protection/control system installed at the mall was found disconnected which deactivated the alarm and the water sprinklers,” he added.

Fire safety system to be scrutinised; man arrested for hampering rescue operation; mall, residential towers to remain sealed

The case in connection to the fire was registered at Margalla police station under Section 436 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy house, etc) against unidentified persons in response to a complaint lodged by Margalla SHO Mateen Chaudhary.

According to the FIR, the SHO received information about the fire at 4:02pm and the police reached the scene at 4:10pm. The police found Tower A of the mall ablaze with rescue workers trying to extinguish the flames, it added.

“An unidentified person for unknown reasons set the mall on fire, the FIR added.

Skyscraper sealed

Subsequent to the fire, Centaurus Mall was vacated, including the residential areas in the building, as per an order issued by Deputy Commissioner Irfan Nawaz Memon.

In the wake of the recent fire incident and in the exercise of power conferred under Civil Defence Rules 1951 and other enabling provisions of law, the premises of the Centaurus Mall, Islamabad, is hereby sealed with immediate effect, the notification read.

The Capital Development Authority is requested to constitute a committee to determine the structural capability of the building/tower, it added.

The mall along with all residential towers will remain sealed till the report of the committee, it said, adding that the capital police are requested to cordon off above mentioned area in order to ensure public safety till further order.

Mr Memon also constituted a seven-member committee to ascertain the facts and factors that led to the cause of the fire and its subsequent spread.

The terms of reference of the committee are to ascertain the cause of the fire and potential threats/factors that lead to its spread, to determine whether the fire safety equipment and the fire safety alarm system inside the building/tower were operational, whether any mock exercise were conducted in the recent past by the management, ascertain the extent of damage, the notification said, adding that a report to this effect will be furnished within three days.

DC Memon said that action would be taken as per law in light of the committee’s report. The capital administration will permit the businesspersons operating in the mall to collect their valuables, he said, adding that the shopping area was also corroded off to avoid burglary.

The mall will not be opened before the completion of the inquiry report, Mr Memon said.

The committee conducted its first meeting on Monday and also visited the mall to examine the incident spot, the official of the capital administration said, adding that the body also interrogated the staff of the mall and examined and fire control system, they said.

Earlier in the day, the brother of Azad Kashmir Prime Minister Sardar Tanveer Ilyas, who owns Centaurus Mall, along with his guards arrived at the mall and expressed dissatisfaction over the rescue operation.

The AJK premier’s brother and senior officers of the administration engaged in harsh arguments. Someone from the group also allegedly grabbed a collar of an assistant commissioner and was taken into custody.

On Sunday, the capital police arrested a man “wearing a black police uniform and armed with a 12-bore rifle” from the mall when the rescue works were in progress.

A case was also registered against him at Margalla police station under sections 353, 186, 170, 171, 506ii, and 34.

The man was produced in the court of a magistrate from where he was given in police custody on one-day physical remand, police said.

According to the FIR, the man along with three companions put up resistance against the officials and attacked the police when the law enforcers warned him.

Published in Dawn, October 11th, 2022

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