Four firefighters lost their lives and 13 others were injured in a devastating fire that broke out in a factory located in the New Karachi area of the city, resulting in significant damage to the building and its subsequent collapse, police and officials said on Thursday.
“Four people died while 13 have been injured as a building collapsed near Karachi Kanta, New Karachi Industrial Area. All have been shifted to the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital,” a statement from the district central police spokesperson said.
It added that further investigation was underway.
Central District Deputy Commissioner (DC) Taha Saleem told Dawn.com that the fire had erupted in the factory in New Karachi at around 7:45am on Wednesday and was caused by a short circuit but rapidly spread and engulfed the clothes stored there.
He added that since the industrial unit was located in a “highly congested locality”, the firefighters faced difficulty in putting out the blaze.
“Due to the narrow streets, the snorkel could not reach the place as it required a certain space to move in the area,” DC Saleem said. He added that 10 fire tenders were called while water tankers had also been called.
“The operation to control the fire continued till 2am on Thursday when the fire was controlled, and then the cooling work started. It was a four-storey building and because of some [undetermined] reasons, the building collapsed.
“One probable cause was that its structure had been weakened by the heat. Besides, there was a heavy weight of accumulated water and the presence of clothes, etc, under whose impact, the industrial unit collapsed,” he continued.
Having supervised the operation, the DC said they were “exercising caution during the cooling work mostly from outside the building”. “Only a few firemen were present there and the cooling work was almost complete when the building collapsed.”
He said four people came under the building’s debris and were immediately rescued and saved while 13 others, including firefighters, suffered injuries. Five of the injured had been taken to Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre while the other eight were taken to Abbasi Shaheed Hospital, Saleem said.
He added, “It was immediately realised that four firemen were missing and they started searching but unfortunately, they have expired.”
The DC said all bodies had been handed over to the relatives after fulfilling legal formalities. He added that a team from Sindh Building Control Authority had been called who have conducted an assessment survey of the area and started demolishing the remaining part of the factory with heavy machinery.
The deceased were identified as Mohsin Sharif, Khalid Shehzad, Sohail, and Afzal.
A raging fire erupted on Wednesday in Usman & Sons Bedsheet Company in the New Karachi area’s Sector-16-B, located on Shehla Raza Road. The inferno persisted until the early hours of Thursday before the building collapsed, causing fatalities.
Sindh Governor Kamran Tessori also visited the site earlier today and expressed grief at the loss of lives.
He said, “Fourteen people were injured and till now, three people have lost their lives. Search for one is ongoing. I think that a bigger incident than this could not have occurred on this holy night… I think they will be called martyrs and they will receive a high rank as they were on duty and busy with a task to save others’ lives.
“While saving others’ lives, while performing their duty, this building collapsed. The people who got trapped will be called martyrs,” he added.
Tessori, updating the death toll, assured the deceased’s families of the government’s support: “Four people have been martyred so I express my grief with their families and assure that the firefighters who lost their lives during their duty, taking care of their families are our first and foremost responsibility.
“Whatever may the reason behind the fire but you see such incidents happening after every few days, so we have to make sure that such incidents don’t take place and people don’t lose their lives due to them.”
Two other videos shared by him show him taking a look at the collapsed building and being apprised by other officials about the situation, while a huge crowd has also gathered around him.