Rawalpindi gas leak tragedy in casts gloom on neighbourhood

Published May 29, 2023
Rescue 1122 personnel rescue an injured boy from the debris of the house in Rawalpindi collapsed in another gas explosion on Sunday. — Photo by Mohammad Asim
Rescue 1122 personnel rescue an injured boy from the debris of the house in Rawalpindi collapsed in another gas explosion on Sunday. — Photo by Mohammad Asim

• Mother fighting for life, father distraught after four kids killed in tragic accident laid to rest
• Another gas explosion claims teenager’s life, injures seven

RAWALPINDI: A day after a gas leak in Shamsabad left four children dead and their mother in a critical condition at the Holy Family Hospital, another incident of similar nature claimed the life of a teenage boy and injured seven members of the family in a two-storey house in Peoples Colony on Sunday.

Police and rescue officials said the explosion, which occurred possibly due to a gas leak, occurred after Imran Ahmed attempted to light a cigarette with his lighter. Police quoted Mr Ahmed, who is in critical condition, as saying that the family had forgotten to turn off the gas stove before going to bed.

As a result of the explosion, one portion of the house collapsed and eight members of the family, including a visiting relative, were buried under rubble.

Imran’s teenage son Sahil passed away as a result of the blast. Imran,35, his wife Fauzia, 38, brother Faisal, 19, sister Malaika, 24, daughters 14-year-old Muskan and five-year-old Maroosh, and Zubair were injured. Police said Imran’s condition was critical while the condition of other victims was termed out of danger.

Tragedy casts glooms

Separately, four kids who were killed in a gas explosion on Saturday were laid to rest at a local graveyard, as their mother, with 85 per cent burns, fought for her life in the intensive care unit of the Holy Family. Some of the mourners, who visited the house for condolences, were sobbing while some were trying to hold back tears while recalling the tragic deaths of the kids who lost their lives.

As her children were soundly asleep, Noreen, 35, the ill-fated mother, went to bed after offering her morning prayers on Saturday. When she woke up, it was not long before she found herself trapped in the fire that claimed the lives of her kids and left her severely injured with more than 80pc of her body burnt.

Noreen and her children lived on the ground floor of a house on Abbasi Street, a densely populated neighbourhood in Shamsabad, while her husband, Shahid Abbasi, was away in Saudi Arabia to earn a livelihood.

Zeeshan Abbasi, the younger brother of Shahid, lived with his parents on the first floor of the house. Upon hearing the news of the blast, Shahid took the first flight back to Pakistan and went straight to the hospital from the airport.

However, he is in a “state of shock after losing four members of his family and one being in the ICU”.

His brother Zeeshan told Dawn that Noreen was able to talk when she was brought to the hospital; later she lost consciousness due to her injuries. “I offered my prayer and went back to sleep. When I got up and tried to switch on the light, there was a loud explosion followed by fire,” Mr Abbasi quoted her as saying.

In a voice choked with pain, Zeeshan said Noreen had planned to visit the school of her eight-year-old son, Shahzaib Abbasi, to collect his result card. But the fire has turned the dreams of the family into ashes.

Fatima Shahid, a senior Montessori student, suffered 70 per cent burns in the fire. Before she passed away, she was able to give a brief account of the tragedy to her uncle. “Sui gas was left open which caused all this,” said five-year-old Fatima before succumbing to her wounds a few hours later. Her two brothers – one-year-old Muhammad and Shahzaib – and sister Alishba Shahid, 12, also passed away on the same night.

Big bang followed by fire

According to Zeeshan, upon hearing the blast he rushed to the house to check up on his brother’s family. “Some people from the neighbourhood also rushed to the spot [after the blast] and started making efforts to put out the fire with buckets of water. But it was too late when the firefighters arrived on the scene,” he lamented.

According to Zeeshan, his brother went straight to the hospital from the airport. “My brother’s condition can’t be described in words; he is in a state of shock after losing his four loved ones [in a single day],” he said.

Aftab Abbasi, the grandfather of the children, was at a loss for words. “I accept it as the will of Allah,” he said. He told Dawn three similar explosions had occurred in this area over the past couple of months due to gas load shedding in which several lives have been lost. “Nobody knows about the schedule of gas load shedding or when the gas supply is restored during the night.

“When the supply is restored, it turns into a tragedy if stoves are left on,” he added.

According to the police, a gas stove was probably left on during the load shedding which became the cause of the explosion. The police and fire department also termed this as probable cause.

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2023

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