LAHORE: A huge fire engulfed the Hafeez Centre, a major business plaza, on Thursday causing heavy damage and forcing shop owners to close their shops today (Friday).
The fire erupted due to short-circuiting at a computer shop located at the centre's second floor and reduced valuables worth millions of rupees to ashes within no time, government and rescue officials said. Five men including Shahbaz, Muhammad and Asif and two rescuers including Shahid Waheed and Abdul Aleem received burn injuries while extinguishing the fire, which damaged around nine shops, located at the second and third floors of the bustling plaza.According to details, at around 2pm, a fire erupted in a computer shop owned by Kashif and soon engulfed the second and third floors.
Traders tried to control the fire on their own but upon failing to do so, informed the Rescue 1122, fire brigade and Edhi officials who after reaching the spot were able to control the fire after three hours of hectic efforts.
Lahore District Coordination Officer (DCO) Ahad Cheema, Model Town Superintendent of Police (SP) Ayaz Saleem and the Lahore chief traffic officer (CTO) also reached the spot and monitored the whole situation. According to traders, the fire had reduced valuables including computers, cellular phones and other electronic appliances worth millions of rupees to ashes and blamed the Rescue 1122 and the fire brigade for the loss. Hafeez Centre Trading League President Malik Kaleem said that the Rescue 1122 and fire brigade officials reached the spot after 45 minutes and claimed that traders had frequently called for help but no one was available.
He said that before arrival of rescue officials, traders had used 120 cylinders to extinguish the fire.
Hafeez Centre General Secretary Kashif also had the same views and said that the loss was estimated to be in millions of rupees, as only a day before several shop owners had purchased new items. He said that Rescue 1122 officials were well-equipped with new and modern equipment but lacked experience while fire brigade officials had skills and experience but lacked modern equipment. Trader Sohail Ahmed, whose warehouse was completely burnt, said that only a day before he had purchased electronic items worth millions of rupees which were stored in the warehouse, which had been completely destroyed.
Despite being apologetic on reaching late, Rescue 1122 officials claimed that they had reached the place on time. They also claimed that owing to their quick response and fire-fighting skills, the plaza was saved from further damage. According to rescue officials, 13 fire vehicles, two rescue vehicles, one aerial ladder, one water tank and a hazmat unit were used in extinguishing the fire.
Talking to journalists, Lahore DCO Ahad Cheema said that the fire had damaged eight shops out of which two were completely destroyed. He said that the DCO office was conducting a survey of trading plazas located in various areas to ascertain how many plazas did not have sufficient fire-fighting equipment. Cheema said that after the survey, traders would be requested to purchase fire-fighting equipment. He said that stern action would be taken against all plaza administrations not implementing his orders in this regard. He said that if the City District Government Lahore (CDGL) started taking action now then half of the city's total plazas would be shutdown.