12 dead, over 110 injured in Karachi hotel fire

The fire broke out pre-dawn in the basement kitchen and travelled through the air conditioning ducts: sources

Khawar Khan

KARACHI: At least 12 people were killed and more than 110 injured – 30 of them critically – after a fire broke out in a private hotel at Shahrah-e-Faisal on Monday.

According to hotel sources, the fire broke out at 3:00AM in the kitchen located in the basement of the hotel and travelled through the air conditioning ducts, engulfing a major part of the hotel in flames.

Firefighters were able to douse the fire after four hours with the help of three fire tenders.

About 100 people were reportedly trapped inside the hotel and were evacuated by rescue workers using a crane.

Mayor Karachi Waseem Akhtar visited the site of the incident and while talking to media, he said rescue work was hampered due to absence of emergency exits and fire alarms. 

Dr. Seemi Jamali, Executive Director at the Jinnah Post Graduate Medical Complex (JPMC), told Geo News 30 of the victims brought to the hospital were in critical condition and were being treated for asphyxiation.

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Among the injured were foreigners staying at the hotel, including some Chinese officials.

Additional police surgeon Dr Kaleem Sheikh said four doctors and hotel duty manager are among the dead.

According to Faisal Edhi, the foreigners present inside the hotel could not understand Urdu because of which some of the rescue effort was hampered.

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Fire alarm system failed during incident: sources

According to the source at the Regent Plaza hotel, the fire began at the kitchen of Jharooka and Almas restaurants.

Sources said it was a short circuit initially and there was no proper fire alarm system. Fire drill was not conducted since last two months in the hotel, sources added.

The ceilings of the lobby, mezzanine and ground floors were made of thermapool sheet, which caught fire quite quickly and spread it, source added.

The SOP (standard operating procedure) of any big hotel or restaurant is that to have at least two emergency exit on each floor, fire extinguishers, smoke detectors and air ducts are mandatory on each floor as well. Unfortunately, there was only one emergency exit on each floor.

According to secretary health, bodies and injured were sent to Jinnah Post Graduate Medical Center and Aga Khan University Hospital. Mostly people got injuries due to stampede, he said.

'Windows broken to rescue the trapped'

Guests inside the hotel, desperate to escape the blaze, jumped from windows and scrambled down knotted bedsheets and curtains to leave the building. 

SSP District South Karachi Saqib Ismail Memon said rescue teams reached the site promptly and broke window panes to rescue those trapped inside the hotel. 

The official said the fire broke out in the kitchen and spread from there, carried along by the air conditioning system in the building. 

One of the survivors from the hotel fire spoke to the media stating that she thought she won't be able to make it out alive until help came to the rescue. 

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'Hotel manager died saving others' 

Chief Fire Officer KPT Saeed Jadoon said the hotel duty manager died while attempting to contain the fire and save others from the blaze. 

The official said the rescue work was completed in three and a half hours and 11 floors of the hotel were all searched and cleared. 

Cricketers among those affected

Pakistan batsmen Sohaib Maqsood, Umar Amin and Hammad Azam were present in the hotel at the time of the tragedy. UBL cricketers were also staying at the hotel and were evacuated from their rooms following the deadly fire.

Bowler Yasin Murtaza jumped from the second floor to the ground and fractured his ankle. Karamat Ali was injured by broken glass, according to sources. 

The cricketers are in Karachi for the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy tournament. Following the incident PCB postponed the third day's play of the ongoing match, as many of the cricketers were too shaken to play. 

The cricketers helped in rescue efforts. UBL team manager Nadeem Khan said Sohaib Maqsood and others helped rescue families trapped inside the hotel. The cricketers also helped some Chinese officials trapped inside the building to evacuate.

PIA crew among injured 

A Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) spokesperson confirmed 16 of the airline's cabin crew members were injured in the blaze. Most of these crew members belong to Islamabad and Peshawar.

The injured were treated at the hospital after which some of them were discharged while others are still at hospital, the spokesperson said.

'Case to be registered after survivor accounts' 

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DIG South Azad Khan confirmed most of the deaths occurred due to suffocation, while one person died due to burns. He said investigation will begin once medical evidence is collected and a case will be registered after survivor accounts start coming in.

The official said there were two fire exits in the hotel. He added the authorities are waiting for a report from the fire department which would tell if the fire alarm set off or not.

He added that so far the evidence collected points to accidental fire and it does not look like a terrorist act. 

CM Sindh takes notice of the incident 

Chief Minister Sindh Murad Ali Shah took notice of the incident and demanded a report on the hotel fire incident from Commissioner Karachi. 

Murad Ali Shah meanwhile called an emergency session over the tragedy which will be attended by Chief Secretary Sindh, Home Secretary and other officials. 

Additional IG Karachi Mushtaq Mehar said a police team led by SSP has begun investigation into the incident. He said forensic evidence has been collected from the hotel and will be tested in laboratory. 

A case will be filed after a report on the matter is released, he said.