KARACHI, Jan 3 An assessment report received from the fire department by the federal investigation agency officials inquiring into the incidents of arson following the Ashura procession blast was found contradicting the earlier claims of the city district government of Karachi that 42 fire tenders and six snorkels were called in to extinguish the fire.

Thousands of shops in Boulton Market and adjoining buildings were set on fire by miscreants following the Ashura procession blast that left 44 people killed and hundreds other injured on Dec 28.

The report filed by the city government's fire department said that 18 fire tenders were called in from 16 fire stations and two snorkels brought in by the central fire station to put out the fire.

The city district government had earlier claimed that a total of 42 fire tenders and six snorkels were used to extinguish the fire which lasted for almost two days and left more than 2,000 shops gutted.

“An initial assessment submitted by the fire department said that 16 fire stations across the city were called to fight the fire after the arson attack,” said an official, requesting anonymity.

“The FIA has also got timings of the departure of fire tenders mentioned in the initial report submitted by the fire department. There are serious differences of times between the fire erupted and the tenders left their fire stations.”

The investigators further found that firefighters, who were involved in one of the most challenging operations of the decade, were without some basic equipment. The findings showed that the municipal department of the city district government provided helmets, torches and fire suits to the fire stations on December 31 - two days after the tragedy.

The explosion that ripped through the country's largest Muharram procession when it was passing near the Denso Hall on the main M.A. Jinnah Road was followed by arson attacks, leaving the markets between Lighthouse traffic intersection to Boulton Market completely burnt.

Ateeq Meer, the chairman of the Alliance of Market Associations, a platform for nearly 300 markets and traders' associations, echoed the same sentiments. However, he also blamed the police for not rising to the occasion.

“They left the arsonists free to do what they willed,” he said.

“Iqbal Market, Lighthouse, Kapra Market along with wholesale markets of imported perfumes, glasses, chemical and medicine were burnt out. The incidents rendered some 12,500 people unemployed, as they were directly associated with the business in these markets, and turned 2,500 traders into paupers.”

According to the initial assessments, the losses were estimated around Rs30 billion, he said. However, he added that he was not ready to believe the government claims about compensation.

The investigators, meanwhile, also found visible signs of negligence and irresponsible reaction on part of the police, who neither did stop miscreants from setting shops on fire and nor did provide any protection to firefighters.

“Some firefighters were badly beaten up by miscreants,” said the official, citing findings of the initial report.

“A fire station on the M.A. Jinnah Road was ransacked, while motorcycles of two firefighters were also set on fire during the whole episode and unfortunately there was no sign of police or other law-enforcement agency,” the official added.

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