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He said one of the fireman, Ghulam Ali, was also trapped with other firemen when the building caved in but, “he managed to come out of the debris and told us that the fire officer and three other firemen, who were with him when the building collapsed, were still down there.”

Fireman Shakeel said the rescue workers had managed to enter a part of the collapsed building through the rubble and they had seen the body of Ahmed Noor stuck under a pillar. “But they couldn’t get through to Noor as it was impossible to take out the body from the heavy pillar, and had to come out of the collapsed structure, without him,” he said.

Another rescue worker said the pace of the rescue operation was too slow mainly because of restricted space for moving in the rescue equipment. “It could take another 24 hours to remove the debris.”

The watchman of the factory, Raees Khan, said that he had seen an electric cable giving off sparks from the ground floor before the fire engulfed the fabric godown of the stitching department of the factory. “I along with other employees tried to extinguish the fire with fire extinguishers, but it spread rapidly,” he said.

He said as many as 22 labourers were hired to remove the material from the gutted section and some of them were believed to have been inside the godown when the building collapsed.

Station Fire Officer of the Naval Fire Service Qabil Shah said that four fire engines from the NFS were also performing the rescue service. “The collapsed building is still smouldering,” he added.

The SFO has said as many as 106 rescue workers from the NFS are involved in the rescue operation which is continuing round the clock.

An army major, who is supervising the rescue operation with his strong team, told Dawn that the main problem in the rescue operation was that there was no drawing/plans of the building’s layout available. “We are here for support since last night and have guided the rescue workers in the use of the equipment,” he added.

Nazeer Mohammed, a fireman from the Central Fire Station, appearing confounded by the situation on the ground said the buildings did not collapse due to the intensity of fire.

“I have never seen such a building collapse due to fire in my 23-years of service,” he remarked. The fireman indicated that the building most probably collapsed due to the sub-standard material used in the construction.

“I have heard people say that two of the pillars of the collapsed building were too weak, to withstand any kind of shock,” he said, adding “and since the collapsed building is too narrow, this is resulting in a great deal of problem for the rescue workers, as only one machine, whether it be a driller or shovel, can be moved in at a time.”

(By Tahir Siddiqui, Dawn-17, 17/01/2007)

Fire department still awaits new vehicles

KARACHI: The Fire Brigade Department of Karachi is still waiting for two snorkels and 22 small vehicles that were pledged by the city government in last year’s budget in order to enhance its capacity to blow out fire incidents.

In June 2006, the City District Government Karachi (CDGK) earmarked funds worth Rs 110 million for the development of the fire department in its budget approved for 2006-07. However, after a six-month lapse, the fire department still depends on other institutions in order to perform efficiently, as the CDGK has been unable to follow through its promise.

According to the budget, a search and rescue team on the pattern of international standards would also be set up, using the federal government’s grant of Rs 350 million, while 22 small vehicles would be handed over to the fire department for developing disaster management.

An official of the department termed the department’s deteriorating condition as an open secret. “Every time a mishap occurs in some part of Karachi, the fire department needs assistance, either from the Army or the Rangers.” He said that the fire-fighters had to suffer because of the lack of adequate extinguishing equipment, as had happened Monday in a factory in the SITE area, where three fire officials died as the factory’s roof collapsed due to severe heat.

When contacted, an official of the CDGK said that the fire department would soon be equipped with the latest vehicles as the procedure to get them was underway.

Meanwhile, the Sindh Minister for Labour, Industries and Commerce Adil Siddiqui, expressed grave concern on Tuesday over the incident of fire in SITE area. During his visit to the factory that had caught fire, Siddiqui said that such incidents were on the rise in industrial areas, creating unrest and fear among workers.

He said that the notice of the fire incident had been taken to the higher level and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz had also expressed concern over it.

(Daily Times-B1, 17/01/2007)

Bad policies bring Fire Dept closer to internal backdraught

KARACHI: The funeral in absentia of the seventh firefighter Fareeduddin who died in Monday’s SITE textile factory inferno was held at the Baldia fire station on Sunday.

The rescue operation was wrapped up without being able to find Fareeduddin’s body. Sources said that during the last moments of the fire he was seen with the three firefighters whose bodies were recovered from the debris.

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