June 6, 2022
ISLAMABAD – AN entirely avoidable disaster has ended up displacing dozens of families, killing a young student and consuming considerable resources of the Karachi fire department.
From initial reports, the owners of a superstore chain had hoarded an estimated four to 10 tonnes of cooking oil in the basement of a residential building located near Karachi’s Jail Chowrangi. The store owners were hoping to make a significant profit from their stock, as they expected oil to soon run short in the market.
Due to reasons that have yet to be ascertained, a fire broke out in or near the storage area last Wednesday, killing one and injuring three. For more than 50 hours, dozens of fire brigades and scores of firefighters struggled to put out the blaze, which reportedly kept reigniting due to the large quantity of cooking oil present.
Nearly 800,000 gallons of water were consumed in combating the blaze. The building has since been declared ‘dangerous’ as a result of the damage to its structure, rendering hundreds of its residents homeless.
Neglect of fire, general safety and construction regulations has become an all too common feature of most residential and commercial projects in the city in recent years. The authorities who are tasked with keeping a check on dangerous practices continue to look the other way as long as there is an ‘incentive’ to do so, and ordinary citizens are inevitably paying the price.
An investigation team needs to determine why a superstore was allowed to turn a residential building’s basement, meant to be used as a parking space, into a warehouse for flammable goods, as well as who allowed it to do so. Criminal proceedings should be initiated against all those responsible to send a strong warning to all businesses and builders operating in the city that they should put public safety before personal profits. The government would also do well to ensure that any loss suffered by families and individuals affected by this store’s reckless disregard for public safety is fully compensated.