It took hectic efforts of no less than 50 hours and the application of all available resources and manpower to control — not completely though — the fire that broke out at a famous departmental store of Karachi in the forenoon of Wednesday. The fire had worked its way from the basement of the superstore towards the upper levels of the 15-storey building. The long-drawn firefight — involving 11 fire tenders, two water browsers and a snorkel provided by KMC and 13 water tankers sent by KWSB — shows that our authorities lack the wherewithal to deal with a serious inferno. The residential blocks had been vacated but not before the blaze had left several people unconscious, one of whom — a young man who had visited the departmental store in search of a job — lost his life during treatment.
According to media reports, flammable food items, such as oil, stored in the warm basement environment was the main cause of the fire. This speaks of the sheer carelessness on the part of the store owners, as well as criminal negligence on the part of the relevant authorities. That several employees got trapped inside the store and were left unconscious indicates that SOPs might not have been followed. This is a concurrent problem witnessed in similar stores and buildings across the country since employees and workers are unaware of emergency and evacuation protocols. Moreover, many buildings are also seen with expired or faulty emergency equipment. It can be argued that the situation could have been controlled if there weren’t any such shortcomings. Through periodic inspections, the Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) must regulate multi-storey buildings and make sure that all precautionary measures are being taken to avoid such an incident in the future.
The footage of the incident was highly alarming because it showed poor fire fighters trying to put out the flames without proper equipment. As a result, they weren’t able to enter the building and the fire kept on raging. Even though a proper assessment will be conducted after the cooling down process is complete, SBCA officials believe that the entire building might need to be demolished as its foundations have taken significant damage. If this is the case, the resident of the building who are now devoid of a home must be compensated fairly. Even several nearby buildings may feel the heat.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 4th, 2022.