LAHORE – The beautifully-constructed New Auriga Centre, a leading shopping mall on the Main Boulevard in Gulberg, was presenting a deserted look on Saturday. A place where customers, especially women, usually roamed in style has suddenly turned into a ghost town as instead of its clientele, there were only the traders who were recounting their losses while standing in front of their fire-hit shops.

The fire left top two floors of the four-storey building totally gutted. There were offices of multinational companies and fabric godowns on the 4th and 3rd floors. Fabrics and other valuables, worth millions of rupees, are now gone forever as a result of the huge fire that broke out on its 4th floor. Talking to TheNation on Saturday, a day after the destruction, the shopkeepers said that the fire, which had broken out due to the short-circuiting in a power generator, reduced to ashes the two top storeys within a few hours.

Though some public representatives and senior officers of the City District Government had immediately reached the spot when on Friday evening the plaza caught fire, the affectees claimed that no one visited them on Saturday to console  them. On the other hand, the customers who somehow did not know what had happened to the place they had been frequenting were surprised when they visited the Mall on Saturday for shopping. It was merely a burnt out skeleton.

The City District Government has ordered an inquiry into the incident to find out what had exactly caused the fire. The traders are calculating their losses to seek government help. Apart from hundreds of shops, there were offices of leading telecom company – Wateen Telecom – in the plaza. More than 100 employees used to work at a time on the 4th floor, completely gutted now.  Several hundred fabric shops were also situated in the multi-storey shopping plaza. When the fire broke out, the helpless traders managed to remove some of the fabrics and valuables from their shops. Those (traders) who used to attract customers actively at their shops were seen sitting on the road and watching towards the gutted plaza on Saturday evening.

“We have lost millions in the fire. No shops and no more business. We even don’t know when and how will it (plaza) be made functional. The fire has left us on the road,” Muhammad Khan, a shopkeeper told this reporter. The fire fighters managed to put the fire after five hours long hectic efforts but no one is sure when the traders will be back to work.