ISLAMABAD -  Two persons lost their lives while another received severe injuries after fire erupted at the capital’s four-storey Awami Markaz in the Red Zone here Sunday morning.

A youngster Ali Raza (24/25) died after he jumped off the 4th floor of the building to save his life.

Apparently encouraged by the ‘rescuers’, the police officials on ground, Raza jumped off the building to land at a sheet of cloth stretched out by the police officials but they could hardly keep it holding as Raza landed on it. He hit the ground hard and almost breathed his last on the spot. Another person, Waqar died because of the suffocation due to intense flames and heat caused by severe blaze and his body was later found from the 4th floor of the building. The third victim, Umer Ejaz, 22, who had also jumped off the building got severe injuries and was taken to hospital for treatment. His condition is stated to be critical. According to the police officials, the victims were staffers at a call centre located inside the building.

The footage of the gory incident that went viral on social media soon after the incident showed that Ali Raza jumped off the 4th floor to land on the cloth sheet but seemingly untrained and lacking professional skills to rescue the trapped persons, the police officials could not take him on the stretched cloth and he slipped on to the ground.

The fire at Awami Markaz at the backside of PTV building in the Red Zone erupted at around 7:15am.

According to the initial information, the fire erupted mainly due to the short circuit. Three persons were trapped inside the building.

The firefighters controlled the blaze after hectic efforts of two hours but it again erupted during the process of cooling. The fire-fighting operation continued for around 10 hours. The reports said that the fire started at the basement of the building.

According to sources, the chemical which was used to extinguish the fire was expired which did not work properly. They said the extinguishing material carried the stamp of May 2016 as expiry date.

Some 17 security guards from Aqsa Security Company were present in the building at the time of fire’s eruption but they succeeded in leaving the complex. Besides CDA, fire tenders of Pak Navy and Air Force also took part in the operation.

The complex housed the offices of Engineering Development Board, Ministry of Industries and Production, Federal Tax Ombudsman, CPEC Centre of Excellence and other government officers. The fire caused loss of important record pertaining to these offices. The CPEC centre of excellence was also in the same building and has burnt down along with its computers and important documents. The centre was built to keep the experts of both countries in contact with each other, and was inaugurated a year ago.

However, according to the spokesman of CPEC, Ministry of Planning and Development, Ministry of Planning Unit in Awami Markaz is completely safe. “It is in the centre top of the building where fire could not reach. All physical infrastructure there is safe,” he said. He further said the Centre of Excellence and record of the CPEC is completely safe as no file work or official data about CPEC is consigned to the centre.

He said that this unit is digitalised and the research data is kept on cloud system. He said all the record pertaining to progress and research in the CPEC is safe with PIDE and there is no chance of having lost it in the fire. Thick black cloud was seen billowing over the building. The officials of CDA, police, district administration also reached the spot to monitor the situation.

Meanwhile, Islamabad district administration has constituted a four-member committee to ascertain the cause of fire and assessment of losses/damages. The committee comprised Additional Deputy Commissioner (East) Islamabad (Head), Director E&M, CDA Islamabad, Assistant Commissioner (Secretariat) Islamabad and SP City Islamabad. The committee will submit its report within three days.

Furthermore, Ministry of Industries and Production has also constituted a 7-member inquiry committee to ‘find out the causes and fix responsibility for fire incident in a block of Industrial Facilitation Centre (IFC) building’ that took place on Sunday. The committee comprises Capt (Retd) Ajaz Ahmed, Additional Secretary Ministry of Industries and Production; Joint Secretary Admin, Ministry of Interior; Mussadaq Ahmad Khan, Joint Secretary (E&D), Power Division; a representative of Federal Tax Ombudsman, a structural engineer to be nominated by NESPAK; Chief Electrical Engineer IESCO; Ch. Waseem of AKASA Company — a representative of private tenant companies and any other technical experts the committee wishes to associate. On August 23, 2017, around 600 stalls had burnt in a blaze at H-9 Itwaar Bazaar as well.

 

TAHIR NIAZ