Centaurus fire probe committee visits blaze site, interviews eyewitnesses

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Stuff worth Rs500m charred, business activity to resume only after experts’ clearance

Zubair Qureshi

A seven-member Centaurus Mall fire probe body on Monday visited the site of the blaze and interviewed the eyewitnesses, traders, workers and passers-bye who happened to be there when flames engulfed the shopping mall.

According to rough estimates, stuff worth more than Rs500 million has been destroyed where the building too will be assessed by a team of foreign experts and only after clearance by them business activity will resume.

The committee constituted by Deputy Commissioner Irfan Nawaz Memon and comprising officials of the Capital Development Authority (CDA), Islamabad Capital Territory Authority (ICT) and other government departments has also decided to investigate the Mall administration and inquire about presence of the latest fire-fighting equipment, fire protection system, fire alarm, automatic emergency showers, rescue and emergency system as they are the first and the foremost requirement to be fulfilled by the Mall administration.

Firefighters after hours of struggle had brought under control the inferno that engulfed the outer wall of the building and many open air restaurants as well as outlets.

According to DC Irfan Nawaz traders are allowed to get their goods from their shops inside the Mall, however, the building will remain sealed till investigation/inquiry is completed.

Sunday’s fire not only caused huge loss to the small and big businesses, the life-long struggle of an artist also went to flames in this huge inferno.

It took Wasil Shahid years to make calligraphy artworks that were put on a three-day Islamic Calligraphy exhibition at the Mall in connection with the birthday celebrations of the Holy Prophet (PBUH).

In a social media post, the artist shared his ordeal saying his hard work and dedication went to ashes within a few minutes. Nine of his 21 artworks were completely destroyed.

The grief-stricken artist narrated his pain saying gold foil was used to design those artworks and it took years to finish.

Despite the huge fire, no major injuries were reported and rescue teams safely evacuated people. A helicopter from the Pakistan Navy and fire-fighting teams also arrived on the scene moments after the fire was reported.

Some reports suggest that fire was first reported in the food court on the 4th floor, in the kitchen of one of the restaurants. Experts hinted that the fire could have been the result of a short circuit or gas cylinder blaze.

Meanwhile, the spokesperson for Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Prime Minister on Monday blamed the federal government for fire in Islamabad’s shopping mall, which is owned by AJK PM Sardar Tanveer Ilyas. Talking to journalists, AJK PM’s spokesperson, Raja Usman, claimed that the fire in Centaurus Mall was set deliberately as the federal government was doing political victimisation in light of the political situation.

He claimed that the federal government wants to make it a bigger incident than Model Town fire, accusing Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah of involvement in Islamabad’s shopping mall fire.

The spokesperson further said that the Islamabad administration was responsible for the inferno and the Inspector-General, Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner were directly involved in the incident.Meanwhile, AJK Food Minister Ali Shan announced that the territory’s President and premier along with thousands of Kashmiris will stage a sit-in on Tuesday if the mall is not reopened.

“We don’t want to politicise the matter nor are we doing that,” the minister said that they have come to express solidarity with the AJK premier. A case over the fire incident was registered at Margalla Police Station on behalf of SHO Mateen Chaudhry under the Section 436. The FIR stated that the unidentified men set the shopping mall ablaze under unknown motives.

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