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Nerve-racking moments for ‘hostages’ of Arfa tower

Nerve-racking moments for ‘hostages’ of Arfa tower

LAHORE: As the Monday’s earthquake jolted all parts of the provincial capital and made millions of people panicky, the situation at Arfa Karim Tower -- a 17-storey building -- was reported to be the scariest.

Though a huge number of people came out of their homes, offices, schools, those present at the Arfa Karim Tower and the IT University functioning there escaped a stampede as most of them dashed from various floors towards stairs to move out of the building, reciting holy verses.

The Arfa Tower, situated on Ferozepur Road near Qainchi overhead bridge/intersection, has a number of public and private offices, including the head office of the Information Technology Board, Punjab Mass Transit Authority (formerly the Punjab Metro Bus Authority), Lahore Parking Company, private IT and software firms.

It also has an IT University where hundreds of students (both male and female) study.

“I was at the 9th floor. And as soon as I felt earthquake’s shocks, I saw swinging of the building structure. I immediately sprinted towards the stairs after I found lifts inoperative,” said Siddique, a visitor.

He said while he was running down through stairs many people started pushing each other in a bid to move out of the building in a jiffy.

On the ground, there were a number of people, including university students, gathered already. The duration right from the start of the earthquake and efforts of the people in reaching the ground through stairs was between eight and 10 minutes, he said.

“The girl students were literally weeping and reciting the holy verses. Most of them were trying to contact their family members on cell phones. They were later seen returning to their homes,” he said.

Another visitor Azfar Iqbal said he had gone to the tower to meet his friend who worked in an office. “I was at the 17th floor when I felt vibration and swinging of the building. Initially, I took it as my misunderstanding. But soon my friend and his colleagues started shouting that it was an earthquake. It was enough for me and I rushed toward stairs. I came down quickly as there was a stampede-like situation in stairs,” he added.

An official of a private company said his organization and several others announced closing of offices soon after all succeeded in reaching the ground safely from various floors.

“Since there are reports of aftershocks during the next 24 hours, we have been asked not to come to the office,” he added.

He said though the Arfa Karim Tower was an earthquake-resistant building, those working there were seen panicky for obvious reason.

On the other hand, residents of all localities in Lahore came out of their houses as soon as the earthquake hit. “I was present at my home and I felt myself swinging. I thought it might be due to pain in my head. But when my wife started reciting holy verses then I realized what was happening. I immediately went out of my house along with my wife, kids and mother. And I thanked Allah Almighty for saving all of us,” Shahid, a resident of Johar Town, said.

Meanwhile, the city district administration put the rescue and relief teams and fire brigades on high alert after the earthquake jolted the city.

A spokesman for the city administration said the situation forced a mother to shift their two kids to the Lahore General Hospital when they did not stop crying for long time after severe jolts frightened them.

However, the kids were discharged after initial medical treatment, the spokesman said.

Published in Dawn, October 27th, 2015

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