LAHORE - All plazas and big shopping centres face the danger of being gutted at any time as frequent power outages damage the wiring that often results in eruption of fire after short-circuiting. According to a survey conducted by The Nation, seeking the opinion of town planners and LDA officials, unchecked power failure and fluctuation is one big reason behind the latest fire incidents in Patiala Complex Hall Road, Liberty market, Shah Aalmi Market and Gakhar Plaza in Rawalpindi. They said unannounced loadshedding or intermittent power breakdowns damage even the high-quality electricity cables and wires. "Once power cables lose its strength and connections turn to be loose, threats of short-circuiting increases manifold." They said that departments concerned and power companies had to make a detailed review to find a solution to the problem. "As the loadshedding seems to be an unending phenomenon, a sophisticated system should be installed in every plaza to sustain power tripping and fluctuations. Monitoring bodies should be constituted to estimate exact load of power so that cable could be replaced according to it," they added. They said, "Increasing power load due to the addition of new shops inside and adjacent buildings in violation of original building map is another cause of fire incidents. One gets terrified to see the jumble of electricity wires hanging dangerously inside and outside walls of the shopping plazas and buildings." The survey disclosed that dangling bunches of naked electric wires are a common sight in such buildings across the town that pose a grave threat to visitors and shopkeepers. Substandard wiring with low-quality electricity cables used in these plazas is considered another cause for short-circuiting that lead to eruption of fire. Such wires can be seen even in mega plazas at Main Boulevard Gulberg, Liberty Market, The Mall, Model Town Link Road, Shah Alami Market, Ichrah Bazaar, Anarkali Bazaar and other markets located in congested areas like Walled City. Most of the plazas, especially in congested areas, are wall-to-wall connected to one another. They lack any safe exit in case of fire like emergency. In some buildings, tools of fire extinguisher are placed but there is no trained staff to use them. There is also spread of untidy wires in basements of buildings where majority of godowns and tailoring shops operate. They have created makeshift floors within their shops to create space for workers. Plazas at the liberty market are the best example in this regard. Temporary flooring hardly provides enough space to these poor workers and electricity is supplied to their sewing machines through careless wiring. Intricate and careless wiring for billboards, decorative lights and air conditioning goes to show how much money the traders put in to promote and run their businesses at the risk of their as well as customers' lives. A shopkeeper Asim told this scribe, "The main electricity supply box remains opened and in rain we often see sparks and flames emanating from this box, which also leads to the suspension of power supply of the whole plaza." Hussain Mirza, owner of a plaza said, "All the plazas at this road have same electricity system, where the main supply boxes are placed openly. It is the responsibility of the Lesco to replace these faulty systems at a safe corner." "We are only responsible for the wiring between the main connections and the meters," said one official of the Lesco department, adding that it was not their responsibility to check the wiring inside the plazas or markets. Experts in LDA Town Planning believe if the fire that reduced Gakhar Plaza to ashes was the result of short-circuiting then scores of such commercial centres in the City run a similar risk. They suggested that owner of plazas and traders also needed to act accordingly to avert short-circuiting to avoid fire incidents. They said the govt should come up with effective 'command and control system' aimed at improving coordination between all the concerned departments to deal with any such emergency situation. They held the Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (PCSIR), University of Engineering and Technology (UET) and Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) laboratories responsible for testing such substandard electric cables. However, PCSIR official Dr Saleem said the centre was not a regulatory authority and only gave reports for those electric cable samples that were submitted to them for quality testing. According to the official estimate, the use of sub-standard wires and cables and electric products is resulting in increased consumption of electricity in the country. It is learnt that the City has witnessed about 1,550 fire incidents in 2008, of which only 1,078 cases were reported. In 12 districts of the Punjab about 4,621 incidents of fire were reported, out of which 810 took place in Faisalabad, 521 in Rawalpindi, 170 in Bahawalpur, 516 in Multan, 167 in Dera Ghazi Khan, 64 in Rahim Yar Khan, 124 in Sahiwal, 309 in Gujranwala, 280 in Sialkot, 29 in Murree and 81 fire incidents occurred in Sargodha.