ISLAMABAD - Though no loss of life was reported in the fire, which erupted on Thursday morning in a multi-storey plaza of a private bank in the Blue Area, the blaze, however, caused an immense damage to the building. The losses could have been averted if the said building had proper fire safety system. The fire broke out on the eighth floor of the United Bank Limited (UBL) building located on Jinnah Avenue near the Red Zone area around 8:45 am and engulfed the other storeys soon, said eyewitnesses and officials of fire brigade. According to initial investigation, the fire erupted due to a short circuiting. The fire completely gutted three floors of the building and partially damaged others. After the incident the CDA’s fire brigade, Rescue 1122, ambulances and rescue teams reached the site and started fire extinguishing and salvage work.
Some helicopters were used to survey the damages. An emergency was declared at various city hospitals immediately after the incident was reported. According to eyewitnesses, the CDA’s fire department were late to arrive at the scene and hence the fire spread to other parts of the building. “The fire-fighters reached the site after almost an hour and damages could have been minimised by the CDA’s fire department’s timely response”, one of the witnesses told this scribe. CDA Chairman Imtiaz Iniyat Elahi, who was also present at the site, told reporters that the apparently fire had erupted due to short-circuiting and that further investigation was underway to ascertain the actual cause.
He maintained that the fire department officials had reached at the blaze site within ten minutes of the incident and the situation was under control due to their “prompt action”. The blaze caused panic in the entire neighbourhood since high flames and huge clouds of smoke could be seen from afar. Heavy contingents of police, along with the bomb disposal squad, were also present there. The police bomb disposal squad conducted a search operation. The bank blaze was finally brought under control after more than five hours. CDA’S PRESS STATEMENT: A CDA’s press statement issued here said the Emergency & Disaster Management of the authority successfully extinguished the blaze at the United Bank Limited (UBL) building and managed to save precious lives of seven people who were rescued from the 14th floor of the building. It said CDA Chairman Imtiaz Inayat Elahi, Administration Member Shaukat Ali Mohmand, Emergency & Disasters Management director monitored the operation on the spot.
The statement said an estimated 150 CDA personnel took part in the operation, which involved 13 fire tenders, two snorkels, seven ambulances, two commander vans and 25 water tankers. “The Control Room of Emergency & Disaster Management, CDA received a call at 0903 hours PST on Thursday morning. The call was made by a supervisor of the UBL-Towers named Muhammad Irfan. The reporting room immediately dispatched the “First Crew Vehicle No FT-04” to the blaze site”, the statement said, adding that after the initial sight assessment and spread of fire across the 8th & 9th floor, the first crew informed the reporting-room calling for instantaneous dispatch of snorkels & aerial ladders. Soon after that, the statement said, a special backup support contingent of around 80 fire fighters, 57 rescuers, 7 CDA Cares men and 1122 paramedical staff with fully equipped seven ambulances were available on the scene.
The rescuers team searched the 8th & 9th floor and carried out rescue work while the fire fighting continued alongside. The entire site was cleared after “unsurpassed” rescue and salvage efforts by 4pm, the statement added.
PROBE ORDERED: Meanwhile, the Islamabad chief commissioner has ordered an investigation into the incident of which Assistant Commissioner Muhammad Ali would be the inquiry officer.