Karachi Inferno: 40 Die in Fire in North Karachi

Posted on January 9, 2009
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Disasters
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Adil Najam

As if life was not tough enough for the poor in Pakistan, a massive fire took hold of of of Karachi’s poorest slum localities and at least 40 people, including children, have already been reported dead. The cause of the catastrophe, which took place late night today, is still unknown. But the fire follows another inferno at Ghakkar Plaza in Rawalpindi less than a month ago.

According to The News:

At least forty people including many minor children and women were burnt to death as blazes completely engulfed many shelties in North Karachi sector five, Chiipa sources said. 12 fire tenders reached on the scene and started taming the fire meanwhile, many other people were seriously burnt who were shifted to hospital, sources added. No cause of fire eruption, in huts made of sticks, could be reported. Several people remained caught in the fire for long time.

Eidhi sources added that over two dozens completely burnt dead bodies including 15 children and women, were shifted to different hospitals. Emergency was declared in Abbasi Shaheed hospital, hospital sources informed Geo News. Geo T.V correspondent Faheem Siddiqui reported, “The deadly blazes overwhelmed around 15 to 20 cabins and huts and completely burnt them down, as people were fast asleep therefore, they could not get themselves rescued after inferno outbreak.”

With details still coming in, here is another new report, from Dawn:

At least 39 people were killed and around 25 injured when a fire ripped through dozens of shanty homes in North Karachi, government and hospital officials said early Friday. According to Reuters, 20 children were among those killed in the fire, which broke out at about 1:00 AM, when most residents were asleep.

An AFP photographer at the scene said more than 30 huts had been gutted in the massive blaze. According to officials, the huts destroyed had been home to about 200 people. ‘This is just a catastrophe. I have lost everything. My life is destroyed,’ said weeping survivor Mohammed Khan, whose wife and two children were killed in the fire. Mashhood Zafar, an official at the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital in Karachi, said about half of those wounded were in serious condition with severe burns.

Thick black smoke could be seen rising from the scene of the disaster in Karachi, Pakistan’s commercial capital which is home to over 15 million people. Some residents wept as others desperately combed through the ruins looking for survivors. Mohammed Asghar was inconsolable – he lost his sister, brother-in-law and their seven children aged one to 12 in the blaze. ‘My brother-in-law was a street vendor and we had planned to go to our home village in a few days,’ Asghar told AFP. ‘My eldest nephew has asked for a new toy car which I could not afford to buy for him. I’ll regret that forever.’

The shanty town – located in Sector Five of North Karachi – was surrounded on three sides by larger buildings, and the only escape route appeared to have been quickly blocked by the flames, firefighters said. ‘Most of the casualties seem to have been caused by the lack of exit route,’ said fire brigade official Ehtesham Salaam. It took firefighters several hours to bring the blaze under control. Police have launched an investigation to determine the exact cause of the fire.

Differing accounts have been given to explain the fire. AFP suggests it may have been caused by a downed power line. On the other hand Reuters has quoted provincial Health Minister Sageer Ahmed as saying it may have been started by a fire lit by residents to keep warm on a chilly night.

Once known for its suburban green spaces and tree-lined streets, Karachi is now a concrete jungle of haphazard settlements. More than half of the population live in slums. The blaze appeared to be one of the biggest in recent years in Pakistan.

16 responses to “Karachi Inferno: 40 Die in Fire in North Karachi”

  1. Farooqui says:

    Do we have any information now on what caused these fires?

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