Islamabad - A massive fire that erupted in the narrow lanes of ‘Itwar Bazaar’, a makeshift Sunday market in sector H-9 of the capital, gutted over 600 stalls, here Wednesday morning.

The flames engulfed the entire C-Section and partially damaged D-section of the market and goods worth millions of rupees were destroyed, however, no casualties were reported.

The market was off for the day when the fire primarily erupted around 11am in a hosiery stall, reportedly due to the blast of a dry battery, but the fire quickly spread across the entire section as the fire tenders struggled to gain access to the area due to narrow space.  The section deals in garments, used shoes, hosiery, bed sheets and other goods that easily caught fire.  The fire department was alerted soon after the incident and over 30 vehicles of the Emergency and Disaster Management were engaged in the process.

More than 150 firefighters and other staff of E&DM Directorate took part in the operation to douse the inferno, said the CDA officials.

They said 15 water tankers were deputed to ensure uninterrupted supply of water to the fire tenders. Ambulances and rescue staffers of E&DM Directorate also remained present at the site. The firefighters finally extinguished the fire by 2pm. The Sunday Market near Peshawar Morr is popular for low-priced items and visited by thousands of shoppers on three days of the week; Sunday, Tuesday, and Friday.

The District administration termed the dry battery blast the reason behind the incident. However, an inquiry committee has been constituted by the Deputy Commissioner Islamabad to ascertain the cause of the fire. Additional Deputy Commissioner (General), ICT would head the committee while Director DMA, MCI, Islamabad and Superintendent of Police I-9 sector are members of the committee. It would ascertain the cause of the fire and assess the loss/damages caused by the blaze.

The committee will submit its report within three days. On the other side, Mayor Islamabad and Chairman, CDA, Sheikh Anser Aziz has also directed the Director Security to ascertain the cause of the fire eruption and report be submitted at the earliest. A thick, black column of smoke was seen billowing over the market. As the fire continued spreading, the shopkeepers rushed to the Bazaar to save their articles by pulling out all they could from their stalls. Few shopkeepers were seen weeping over the loss as they helplessly witnessed their shops reduced to ashes.

Mayor Islamabad, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader Asad Umar and high officials of police and district administration also visited the area.

The mayor rushed to the site to monitor the operation and issued directions to the officers. The other CDA officials also remained present at the site.

There are about 3000 stalls in the market. Spokesman of the CDA, Mazhar Hussain said that blast of a dry battery is the suspected cause of the fire, however, he said that a director security has been asked to probe into the incident and report the matter to the Chairman at the earliest.

The Pakistan Red Crescent Society (PRCS) response team along with the support staff also rushed to the market. PRCS officials said that the response team reached the site immediately with three ambulances along with three first aiders, eight volunteers and five support staff along with officers from different departments. The team supported more than 20 traders in vacating their shops. First-aid was also provided to three traders and two firefighters after they inhaled the poisonous smoke. Later, two persons were shifted to the hospital when their condition deteriorated due to long exposure to smoke, said PRCS officials.