LAHORE – Fabrics and valuables worth millions of rupees were reduced to ashes when huge fire broke out in the 4th floor of the leading shopping mall – New Auriga Center – situated near Main Market Gulberg here on Friday evening.

Shopkeepers said that the fire, which broke out due to short-circuiting in the power generator at the 4th floor, spread in the entire storey within no time during load shedding.

The top two floors of the four-storey shopping center are totally gutted, where offices of multinational companies and fabric godowns were located, local traders say.

Hundreds of shoppers were busy in shopping when suddenly huge fire erupted at the top floor of the shopping center, eyewitnesses said. The fire flames were visible from a considerable distance, indicating its high intensity. According to rough estimates, fabric, offices’ equipment, and furniture worth millions of rupees were gutted.

At least seven fire brigade units raced towards the spot soon after the incident and launched the operation to put out the fire. Later, another five fire brigade vehicles were also sent to the spot to control the fire due to its high-intensity, which led to panic in the entire shopping zone. The fire, which erupted in the 4th floor of the beautifully constructed building, also spread to the third floor as well within an hour.

Rescue workers said that the fire-fighting equipment was installed inside the building but frightened shopkeepers did not even think of using it due to which the fire went out of control within minutes. Helpless traders and shopkeepers were seen removing fabrics and valuables from their shops as the fire went out of control.

“We were busy in selling when suddenly some shopkeepers shouted, fire, fire, fire. We thought they are making fun of us. Then we realised (the gravity of the situation) as huge smoke started emitting from the top floor,” Ahmed Khan, a trader at the shopping center said. He said that the traders got panicked and immediately started removing fabrics from their shops situated in the ground, 1st and 2nd floors of the plaza.

The fire fighters climbed to adjacent buildings and started throwing water on the fire as it was difficult for them to enter inside the building, with top floors burning. The fire fighters were also seen throwing water on the fire with the help of moving cranes.  An official of Wateen Telecom told reporters that the office of the multinational company has been gutted completely. He also claimed that more than 100 employees were work at when the fire erupted. However, no hurt was reported as they rushed towards the safe places to save their lives.

Rescue workers said that they rescued a man with sever burn injuries and shifted him to a local hospital, where his condition was reported to be out of danger.

Heavy police contingents also reached the spot and cordoned off the area to ensure uninterrupted rescue operation. The fire incident also created worst traffic mess at the Main Boulevard Gulberg, where the police diverted the flow of traffic and closed down the entry of vehicles towards the main market.

Several hundred fabric shops are situated in the multi-storey shopping plaza, where the rush of customers reaches at its peak during the evening.  The fire fighters managed to control almost 90 per cent of the fire after four hours long hectic efforts as officials of Rescue 1122, Civil Defence and City government took part in the operation. Fire fighters were struggling to extinguish the fire in some parts of the building till filing of this report. DCO Lahore and public representatives also reached the spot and supervised the operation.