Karachi hotel fire claims 11 lives, injures 75

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Salahuddin Haider

Karachi—A huge fire raging for three and a half hours engulfed a 3-star Hotel Regent Plaza located on the arterial Sharae Faisal Monday, devouring four doctors, three ladies, and four others in its fury, and injuring 75 others. The police, firefighters and the administration, were clueless about the cause of the grisly incident.
A senior police officer of the rank of DIG thought that deaths happened mainly due to suffocation as a fire in the kitchen had filled the rooms with smoke and injuries were caused because of stampede or people attempting to jump from upper floors
Whatever the reason, the tragedy assumed horrendous proportions because of the presence of foreigners, and cricketers staying at the hotel for the prestigious Quaid-i-Azam Trophy tournament, which the country’s cricket board organizes under its patronage.
The how and why of it will at all be known or the issue will be swept under the carpet after routine enquiries, will be determined by the attitude of those responsible for citizens’ safety.
Precious lives were lost, which was tragic, but the positive development was ordering of a thorough probe into the matter by an ever-vigilant Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah. He directed Commissioner Karachi to find out if hotels and high-rise buildings had emergency doors, and these were equipped with firefighting equipment or not.
These are vital points and demanded minute scrutiny. Initial reports said that the hotel had two exits, which for 300 inmates, present at a time, were surely not enough. The hotel had to have much greater focus on safety, which has often been paid little attention or found completely missing. It will also have to be seen if the hotel had an alarm system, and if so, was it working?
Death began to unfold its horrifying face at around 3am — when almost 90 per cent of the room residents were fast asleep. As the smoke, filtering through the air ducts turned into poisonous gas, stampede was natural. Some had already met their ultimate, while others tried in panic to jump for safety, and suffered injuries.
Many kept crying for help in the dead of night, but not many could get the relief they needed. Several others used bed sheets and blankets to protect themselves from the rapidly approaching disaster.
DIG South was intelligent enough to emphasise that evidence and samples had been collected from the scene, and a complete or fairer picture will emerge only after a thorough analysis. That appeared a saner approach.
A PIA cabin crew, staying there, suffered injuries. Some of the crew members belonged to Islamabad and Peshawar and had come to Karachi by an earlier flight, waiting for their turn to return to their home base from another flight assigned to them.
A Pakistani international cricketer Sohaib Maqsood was staying there along with Umar Amin and Hammad Azam. They were lucky to remain unhurt, but their fellow colleague, Hashim Murtaza jumped from the second floor, and had his leg fractured. Another cricketer Karamat escaped with minor injuries.
The players had assembled here for the Quaid Trophy fixture between United and Habib Banks. The match was abandoned for the day. Pakistan Navy, Edhi and KMC fire tenders battled with raging flames for three hours before Mayor Karachi Waseem Akhtar announced on the spot that the fire had been doused. Among those killed were Waqas and Shazia from Gujranwala. They just could not manage to flee in time.

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