LAHORE - Panic gripped Lahore’s Mughalpura neighbourhood on Saturday evening, shortly after more than 35 children fell unconscious during a party at a private school, police and rescue workers said.

“A generator installed inside the basement caused gas leak. As a result, over two dozen kids, aged 6 to 12, fell unconscious because of suffocation,” said an official of the Edhi Ambulance Service, a country-wide charity organisation that runs ambulances to help the victims in accidents or disasters.

A party was taking place in the basement of Al-Hadi Foundation School located in (Street No 4) Gulshan Park, when the generator caused huge gas leak which filled the basement within a few minutes. Reportedly, the generator also caught fire when the rescuers were shifting the sufferers to ambulances from the basement.

Dozens of children and their parents were attending the school party when the incident took place at around 07:20pm. “There was a gas leak. Within a few seconds, the basement was filled with gas and smoke,” said 45-year-old Sobia Bibi who was attending the party. “As I left the basement to attend a call on mobile phone, the generator started leaking gas,” she added.

An official said that three dozen children were shifted to the Shalamar and Services hospitals on ambulances. Condition of most of the victims was said to be out of danger.

“It was terrible. I saw many children lying unconscious on the floor of the basement. Everybody was crying for help,” said Muhammad Nadeem, father of one of the victims. Rescue workers said that the traffic mess in the busy district hindered the rescue operations as several ambulances got stuck in the traffic muddle.

Heavy police contingents reached the spot soon after the incident to control the situation.

The police have also taken the school principal into custody and are investigating. Lahore DCO has ordered an inquiry to probe into the matter, a government spokesman said. Further investigations were underway.