KARACHI: A day after the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation ordered a fire safety audit of buildings along three major roads following Saturday’s fire in a high-rise on Rashid Minhas Road that claimed lives of 11 persons, the city commissioner on Tuesday formed a high-powered committee to conduct the same audit of all commercial and government buildings across the city.

The committee, constituted on the orders of the caretaker chief minister, comprising chiefs of all major civic bodies has been directed to submit its preliminary report within a month, suggesting measures to be taken to reduce fire incidents in the metropolis.

The committee held its first meeting under the chairmanship of Commissioner Muhammad Saleem Rajput on Tuesday.

Sources told Dawn that the committee decided to launch survey of all vital buildings in the city simultaneously, and all seven deputy commissioners were given directions to compile details of safety measures and arrangements in all commercial and government buildings.

Commissioner says audit report of residential, commercial and govt high-rises will be sent to caretaker CM in 30 days

The commissioner and director general of the Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) were appointed convener and secretary of the Fire Safety Audit Committee with city police chief, representative of the Rangers, directors generals of the Provincial Disaster management Authority, Karachi Development Authority, Malir Development Authority, Lyari Development Authority and Civil Defence, managing director of SITE, chief executive officers of all cantonment boards, municipal commissioner of the KMC, chief executive officer of K-Electric, all DCs, all SSPs of Karachi police Range, all town municipal commissioners and others as its members.

The committee was assigned to conduct survey and safety audit of all shopping malls, shopping centres, plazas, residential, commercial and government buildings in respect of installation of automatic fire suppression systems, fire and safety mechanism, fire extinguishers, emergency exits and use of quality electric wiring/fitting according to the approved standards.

According to the terms of reference (ToR) of the committee, it will also examine the approved building plans of all such buildings and assess whether the building control laws have been implemented.

Besides, the committee shall suggest the measures to be taken to reduce the fire incidents in the city.

The committee was directed to submit its preliminary report within a period of 30 days and subsequent reports quarterly on a regular basis.

Commissioner Rajput told Dawn that he had issued orders to all DCs and related departments and institutions to immediately conduct the fire safety audits of all high-rises in the city.

He said that the fire safety audit of all commercial, residential and government high-rises in the city would be conducted so that effective measures could be taken to prevent future fire incidents.

The commissioner said that he would pay visits with his technical staff and experts to review fire safety requirements. “The safety audit report will be sent to the chief minister in 30 days,” he added.

Report shows lack of emergency exits caused 11 deaths

A preliminary report by fire brigade officials on the recent fire incident in a shopping mall on Rashid Minhas Road has revealed that there were no emergency exit points, exit signs and emergency lighting or power backup.

The report, a copy of which is available with Dawn, said that the deaths of the 11 trapped people occurred due to suffocation and smoke inhalation. “No kind of public safety system was available in RJ Mall, including fire safety/fighting equipment and emergency exits,” it said.

The officials further stated in the report that they had not received timely information about the fire and when their fire fighters reached the spot, the building’s third and fourth floors were severely burning.

“An intense smoke was gathered in the complete mall (comprising six floors) due to which the fire brigade staff faced difficulty in the execution of firefighting operations,” it said.

However, the report said the cause of the eruption of fire could not be ascertained.

Around 295 shops were saved but the second floor was completely burnt and out of 65 offices located on the third floor, few offices of the centre portion had been burnt but the major portion of the offices had been saved.

Whereas out of 65 offices located on the fourth floor, a major portion of offices had been burnt but the fifth and sixth floor of the building were completely saved, the report maintained.

It also said that around 45 employees got trapped inside their offices, who were rescued by the firefighting team by smashing the doors.

Imtiaz Ali also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, November 29th, 2023

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