KARACHI: A day after the devastating fire that broke out in a six-storey building in Federal B Area and killed four people, firefighters on Thursday completed their search and rescue operation while a Sindh Building Control Authority team inspected the commercial-cum-residential building and declared it ‘liveable after some repair’.
One more body was recovered from the basement of the building on Thursday, bringing the death toll to four.
Central SSP Faisal Abdullah Chachar said the SBCA technical committee after examining the building had declared it ‘liveable’.
He said the SBCA had also de-sealed from the first to the fourth floor of the building.
He said that an FIR had been registered but no one was nominated in the case.
One flat, 294 shops on ground and mezzanine floors and several vehicles gutted in inferno; SBCA unseals apartments in six-storey Arshi Shopping Centre
Chief Fire Officer of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation Ishtiaq Ahmed told Dawn there were 125 shops, including warehouses on the mezzanine floor, which were completely gutted.
He said there were a total of 169 shops on the ground floor that were also completely destroyed, bringing the total number to 294. He said there were 72 flats on four floors of the building.
Only one flat was completely destroyed on the third floor while the rest were saved, the officer said, adding that two more flats suffered ‘minor damages’.
He said scores of motorcycles standing there were also destroyed in the fire.
The fire chief said a technical team of the SBCA visited the building to ascertain the strength of the structure. However, he opined that since only one flat was destroyed, the building was liveable after repair.
He claimed that they were informed about the fire after considerable delay when the flames engulfed four floors of the residential portion of the Arshi Shopping Centre while all four deaths occurred at the basement where they had taken refuge to protect themselves.
He said the cooling process and searching operation had been completed.
He added that the exact cause of fire was being investigated but witnesses, some of his acquaintances, who also lived there, said that a ‘small fire’ had erupted in a mattress shop.
He said shopkeepers tried to control it by themselves instead of calling the fire brigade.
He said he got a video, in which some people were heard saying that they should call firemen. But the firemen were informed about the blaze after half an hour later, and when the firemen reached there, the flames had engulfed the whole building.
Mr Ahmed claimed that the deputy commissioner and law enforcers were asking firemen not to go there as the building’s structure had been damaged, but despite this, the firemen entered the building by putting their lives in danger and managed to rescue some 500 people from flats.
The fire chief said four bodies were recovered from the basement, which were apparently shopkeepers, who had taken refuge from fire.
Police surgeon Summaiya Syed said three people were suffocated to death while one man suffered 100pc burns, who could not be identified yet.
Sharing a gist of the initial findings, the fire chief said there was no ‘emergency exit’ in the building. Besides, there was also no firefighting equipment.
1,670 fires this year
Separately, talking to media at the spot, the chief fire officer said a total of 1,670 fire incidents — small and big — had occurred in the metropolis this year so far.
He said there were 28 fire stations while as per international standard, there should be one fire station for the population of one lakh.
Ishtiaq Ahmed said the high-rise buildings had been constructed in a haphazard manner. However, he said now the mayor of Karachi had given them powers to inspect buildings and they had started a fire safety audit of the buildings at three places with three teams.
Published in Dawn, December 8th, 2023