Three die as fire rips through another shopping mall in Karachi

Published December 7, 2023
KARACHI: Firefighters attempt to douse the blaze which broke out in a shopping complex below an apartment building at Ayesha Manzil, on Wednesday.—Online
KARACHI: Firefighters attempt to douse the blaze which broke out in a shopping complex below an apartment building at Ayesha Manzil, on Wednesday.—Online

• Local residents’ quick action to evacuate building saved many lives, witnesses say
• CM orders inquiry to ascertain cause of blaze in shopping centre
• Two die of suffocation, one from burns

KARACHI: Three people were killed and two suffered burn injuries in a huge fire that broke out in a six-storey commercial and residential building on main Shahrah-i-Pakistan near Ayesha Manzil in F.B Area on Wednesday evening, officials and witnesses said.

This is the second incident of fire in less than a fortnight as on Nov 25 a blaze that erupted in another six-storey building on Rashid Minhas Road had claimed 11 lives.

Late on Wednesday evening, the officials said 12 fire engines, two snorkels and two bowsers controlled the fire after several hours of hectic efforts. “Cooling process is still underway,” he added.

As usual, caretaker Sindh Chief Minister retired Justice Maqbool Baqar ordered the Karachi commissioner to conduct an inquiry. The inquiry of Nov 25 RJ Mall fire is still underway.

A fire official said that they received information about the blaze in a shop at the Arshi Shopping Centre at around 5:42pm. Initially two fire engines were sent to put out the blaze. But later realising the gravity of the situation, more fire engines were called in from across the city, he added.

Witnesses said that the fire erupted in a mattress shop at the front of the building. They said while fire engines arrived early a snorkel took more than one hour to arrive on the scene.

Residents of the building were helplessly seeing their homes burning to ashes.

As firefighters continued the operation, blasts were heard, which were said to be caused by explosions of compressors of refrigerators and air conditioners in the warehouses in the building.

 Plumes of smoke billow from the multi-storey commercial-cum-residential building in Federal B Area, where efforts were underway to douse the fire on Wednesday evening.—Shakil Adil / White Star
Plumes of smoke billow from the multi-storey commercial-cum-residential building in Federal B Area, where efforts were underway to douse the fire on Wednesday evening.—Shakil Adil / White Star

A police officer told Dawn that they were among the first responders. “The firefighter teams came after half an hour. Till then, the fire had already engulfed the building,” he said.

The fire department claimed that it had evacuated the residents from the buildings, but eyewitnesses told Dawn that all the residents were evacuated by locals.

“As soon as the fire erupted, we informed them [residents], and in no time we cleared the building. If we were not there, there would have been a lot of casualties,” a resident claimed.

The head of the Sindh government emergency service, Rescue 1122, Dr Abid Shaikh, told Dawn that three bodies were recovered from the Arshi Shopping Centre and all were identified as male.

He said it was a six-storey building with shops on the ground and mezzanine floors and four residential floors. The fire appeared to have originated from the commercial floors, where mostly foam, cushions and mattresses shops were located, he added.

The fire spread rapidly and flames engulfed the whole building, but the exact cause of the fire could not be ascertained yet, he said.

Fire victims

Police surgeon Summaiya Syed told Dawn that three bodies were brought to the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital from the spot. Two of them, identified as Ghulam Raza, 45, and Noman Baig, 35, died of suffocation while the third one died of burn injuries, she said.

She said identification and age determination of the third victim was not possible as he had suffered 100 per cent burns. However, DNA samples were taken for identification, she added.

Speaking to journalists at the scene, Karachi Mayor Murtaza Wahab claimed that the rescue staff had saved several people, who had stranded in the building.

The mayor said a thorough inquiry would be held into the incident.

He said a fire safety audit of commercial buildings had been started and a team comprising officials of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation had been formed to this effect after a recent fire at another shopping mall in the city.

Sindh Governor Kamran Khan Tessori and caretaker Information Minister Ahmed Shah also visited the affected building.

The caretaker CM ordered an inquiry, led by the commissioner of Karachi, to ascertain the cause of the fire at the building.

“The commissioner will investigate if there is negligence on the part of the officials concerned, fix responsibility and submit his recommendations within three days,” said a CM House spokesperson.

Published in Dawn, December 7th, 2023

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