Wednesday, December 06, 2023
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Massive mall-residential complex fire kills 3 near Karachi’s Ayesha Manzil

Karachi mayor says two people injured; blaze partially doused after complete evacuation of building; search operation underway

  • Fire initially erupts in a shop as result of short circuit, say witnesses.
  • Blaze engulfs entire complex comprising 250 shops and 450 flats.
  • Rescue teams express fear of building collapse due to fire's intensity.

KARACHI: At least three people died and the two got injured when a six-storey apartment building in Karachi’s FB Area near Ayesha Manzil — which remains very busy throughout the day — caught fire Wednesday, with residents of the building present inside at the time of the incident.

Initially, a shop caught fire as a result of a short circuit, but the flames later spread to other shops that were part of the furniture market situated under the building. The blaze spread rapidly and soon engulfed the entire building comprising 250 shops and 450 apartments, creating panic among the dwellers. 

However, the building was completely evacuated within two hours, as the  Fire Department teams reached to the site and acted swiftly to douse the blaze after it was reported. 

During the rescue operation, a man with severe burns was taken out of the building, while Karachi Mayor Murtaza Wahab confirmed that as many as two people were injured in the fire incident.

Director Rescue 1122 Sindh Abid Shaikh, talking to Geo News, said: "Maximum people have been evacuated. The fire extinguishing operation is still underway. The fire is of the third category, which has engulfed the entire building.”

The affected building has a total of two commercial floors — ground and mezzanine — and the four floors at the top are residential.

Later, Wahab, when he reached the site said three people who had lost their lives could not be identified. He added that an investigation would be launched to see what led to such a massive fire.

Rescue 1122 expresses fear of building collapse 

As per Rescue 1122, over 300 people have been evacuated. The rescue service also expressed the fear of building collapse due to the high intensity of the fire.

Though the fire was partially doused, a search operation was still underway at the site of the incident.

This is the latest massive fire incident that took place in less than two weeks in the port city, with a fire tearing through a shopping mall situated on Rashid Minhas Road on November 25, killing at least 11 people and injuring several others.

Fire safety measures are overlooked in several apartment complexes that are in the metropolis which houses nearly 20 million, with reports revealing that around 12,000-15,000 losing their lives in fires across the country.

The Rashid Minhas Road fire prompted the authorities to conduct a fire safety audit across several buildings in Karachi, but as it was underway, the Ayesha Manzil fire in the Federal B Area erupted.

Resident prays for safety of property

Almas Talha, a resident of the building, said she was still inside when the fire erupted, but her watchman responded quickly and evacuated people from the flat.

“I was inside my flat [...] and I am with my ‘special child’ who is four years old. People are cooperating, but I just hope our flat is saved. I pray for everyone here,” Talha, who lives on the fourth floor of the flat, told Geo News.

Speaking to Geo News SSP Central that there are residential flats above the shop that caught fire — and people were in them at the time of the incident.

Firefighters try to control blazes that broke out at furniture shops at Ayesha Manzil in Karachi on December 06, 2023. — Online
Firefighters try to control blazes that broke out at furniture shops at Ayesha Manzil in Karachi on December 06, 2023. — Online

He said that the shop that caught fire initially, was a mattress store, and the flames have engulfed the surrounding shops as well.

Shopkeeper Waheed told Geo News that he was present on site when the incident took place, prompting the people to make a run for their lives — as it happens in any situation when panic spreads.

“It happened in seconds,” he said, further informing Geo News that the fire first erupted at the mattress shops located at the front of the building.

Caretaker CM orders inquiry 

In a statement, caretaker Sindh Chief Minister Justice (retd) Maqbool Baqar said he had taken notice of the fire and directed authorities to take control of the situation.

A spokesperson said that the CM also ordered an inquiry into the incident to find out the actual cause of the fire. A committee headed by the Karachi commissioner has been formed in this regard, he added. 

The probe committee has been directed to submit a report within three days.

Firefighters try to control blazes that broke out at furniture shops at Ayesha Manzil in Karachi on December 06, 2023. — Online
Firefighters try to control blazes that broke out at furniture shops at Ayesha Manzil in Karachi on December 06, 2023. — Online

Sindh Governor Kamran Tessori told Geo News that he would do his best to take steps so such incidents do not take place again.

“I will beg authorities to sit together and find ways to avoid these incidents,” he said, lamenting that fire engines were late in reaching the site, asking stakeholders to stop trading blame.

Earlier, in a statement from the Governor’s House, it was mentioned that Tessori had taken notice of the unfortunate incident and directed authorities to ensure people were evacuated safely.

“All resources should be utilised to handle the situation,” he said.

Sindh caretaker local government minister Muhammad Mubeen Jumani expressed regret over the deaths in the incident, calling two fire-related accidents in a few days a “matter of concern”.

“Both incidents should be probed,” he said, noting that on directions of the interim chief minister, a committee comprising officials of departments concerned has been formed.

“Instructions have also been issued to ensure the provision of fire extinguishers in all shops and buildings on an emergency basis to prevent such incidents in the future,” he said.