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Eatery fire ‘mystery’: Three of victims expire

January 28, 2013

LAHORE, Jan 27: Three of the victims of a Defence food outlet cylinder blast succumbed to their burns at two hospitals on Sunday.

Rescue 1122 investigation declared it a blast in LPG cylinders, which led to a fire. The police claimed that a fire due to gas accumulation led to the explosion. The police have yet to make headway in the criminal negligence case.

The Defence A police record shows that 11 victims are still admitted to hospitals and one of them is in a critical condition.

As many as 37 people had suffered multiple burns and injuries following a gas blast-cum-fire at the three-storey eatery in Defence Housing Authority’s H-block on Jan 23. The police had registered a case against the restaurant owner and the manager on multiple charges including negligence on the complaint of a Civil Defence official.

Cantonment SP (Investigation) Fida Hussain told Dawn that three victims identified as Asmatullah of Rajanpur, Zareefullah of Rahim Yar Khan and Kashif of Azad Kashmir died of burns at Mayo and Lahore General hospitals.

He said another victim, Sarfraz, who is brother of restaurant owner Mukhtar Ali of RYK, was on ventilator.

He said findings by the police investigators and the Bomb Disposal Squad suggested that gas accumulated in the kitchen (which apparently didn’t have ventilation) on the first storey. The place caught fire when some one lit matchstick, he said.

The SP said some staff working there heard a sound and they opened the kitchen door only to find a huge fire. He said the fire led to an explosion. The investigators didn’t find even a single shred of LPG cylinder rather found at least five such cylinders intact after rescue work was over, he said.

The SP said the case under sections 285, 286, 287, 427 and 436 of Pakistan Penal Code registered against owner Mukhtar and manager Abdur Raheem was still under investigation. He said some of the victims were family members and relatives of the owner.

He said Section 436 (Mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy house, etc) of PPC was non-bailable.

Rescue 1122 Deputy Director Fire (Punjab) Noman Noor said their final report declared LPG cylinders to be the cause of explosion. He said the owner was using LPG cylinders and negligence in their use could not be ruled.

A police source said though the restaurant owner and the manager were yet to be arrested, their arrest and legal action would depend on the seriousness of the civil defence authorities. He said the owner might secure bail at a later stage as his two real brothers and village people were also wounded in the blast. — MUHAMMAD FAISAL ALI