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Six injured in department store blaze at Liberty

Six injured in department store blaze at Liberty

LAHORE: A huge fire engulfed Al-Fatah department store in the Liberty Market on Monday, causing a loss of millions of rupees and huge damage to the entire four-storey building.

Six people, including Rescue 1122 workers, suffered injuries while many others fainted due to flames and thick smoke.

The fire broke out on the ground floor of the building at 4am and it continued till the filing of this report at 11pm.

Staff of the emergency services reached the location with 20 fire trucks but failed to control the blaze timely. The fire spread from ground floor to the other floors and one of the major factors was said to be inflammable material stored in bulk.

Rescue 1122 spokesman Jam Sajjad said 114 people were evacuated from the store and all the adjacent buildings. Dozens of people were residing on the second floor of the store, he said.

The cause of the fire is yet to be ascertained, DCO retired Capt Usman told this reporter.

Rescuers said the delay in controlling the fire was due to poor access to the target site as thick smoke had engulfed the entire building and adjacent buildings which were the only source to make entry into Al-Fatah store.

A stampede-like situation was also witnessed when people tried to leave the buildings to avoid injuries as windowpanes started exploding due to intensity of the fire and smoke.

The situation turned more alarming when workers raised an alarm about the gas supply connections to the affected buildings, including the upper storeys of the store where people were residing as well, the witnesses said.

They said the rescuers, however, immediately cut the gas supply to the affected buildings.

The rescue spokesman said the rescuers continued their efforts to control the fire but they faced challenges as the doors were locked.

A rescue official told Dawn a large quantity of edible oil had been stocked in the store in connection with Ramazan sale which caused fast spread of the fire and made it difficult for them to extinguish it timely. He said the store was locked at the time when the fire erupted and the rescuers could not make their entry into the building.

He said the fire was uncontrollable particularly on the third and fourth floors due to huge flames and thick smoke.

The Edhi Foundation and Falah-i-Insaniyat also joined the operation to support Rescue 1122 personnel and officials of fire brigade department of the City District Government of Lahore.

Al-Fatah owner Irfan Iqbal Sheikh told Dawn the fire broke out at 4am and he reached the spot at 5:15am. He said it was the third incident of fire at the same building, adding the first incident had taken place some 11 years back when his entire store was gutted and later another incident occurred four years back when the fire had erupted at the second floor.

Mr Sheikh said after the fire incidents, he had specially installed automatic fire sprinkler system at the store.

“It is beyond my understanding as to why the sprinkler system did not work when fire erupted on Monday,” he said.

Published in Dawn, June 16th, 2015

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