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Fire at PC Rawalpindi: Guests left gasping for air

Fire at PC Rawalpindi: Guests left gasping for air

RAWALPINDI: A guest at the Pearl Continental (PC) Hotel woke up in the early hours of Wednesday finding it difficult to breathe. He called reception to ask if there was a fire.

“They did not tell me there was a fire, even when I could see the smoke starting to fill up the floor,” he said.

The guest said that after some time, he was asked by the hotel staff to evacuate, which he could not do because the staircase was filled with smoke by then.

“It left me with no option but to wait for the rescue services,” he said.

Another guest was trapped on the fifth floor when he tied together bed sheets to climb down to safety.

On the same floor, 73-year-old Arshad Ahmed was found semi-conscious in his room.

He later regained consciousness and was moved first to a private cardiac hospital and then to Armed

Forced Institute of Cardiology because he is a heart patient.

After a fire broke out in the basement, where the finance department and some other offices are housed, hotel staff had first tried to tackle it themselves before calling Rescue 1122. It took firefighters an hour and a half to control the fire. Rescue 1122 said the fire was likely caused by a short circuit.

Some 165 guests were staying at the hotel when the fire broke out at about 1:30am, including five foreigners and members of airline crews.

No casualties were reported, although 64 guests were evacuated by 1122 staff via ladders. Among these was a newly married couple.

An onlooker said he had never seen anything like it before.

“It felt like I was in a movie, where smoke was coming out of hotel windows and rescuers were hurrying to save people trapped inside,” he said.

A protocol officer at a pharmaceutical company, Javaid, said he was home when he heard about a fire at the hotel where his company’s senior staff was staying. He had rushed to the hotel and said he was relieved to find all his guests had been safely evacuated.

Superintendent of Police (SP) Potohar Division Attique Tahir told Dawn that forensic experts have been called in to determine the cause of the fire.

“Police will look into all aspects, including arson,” SP Tahir said, adding that the police will be part of a committee to be formed by the DCO to investigate into the cause of the fire.

A spokesperson for PC released a press release saying a fire had broken out in the basement, after which rescue services were called and that the fire had been contained.

The press release said that fire alarms on other floors had been triggered by smoke which had travelled up the air ducts.

The statement read that all guests were taken either to Marriott Hotel or to Hotel One and that the hotel is now operating normally.

Published in Dawn, January 7th, 2016

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