Despite so many reminders
The fire at the PTCL exchange in Lahore early Sunday morning was another reminder that fire safety systems are absent in even the most important buildings in the most important cities. It would seem that due to the high number of fires we witness – along with the damage they cause in terms of lost lives and at times records and official material – the phenomenon would be placed very high on the priority list of those in charge. Yet incident after incident passes without the tiniest effort to pre-empt or control fires.
The PTCL fire has cut off telephone lines and internet to thousands of people and businesses for approximately three days. Hopefully the system will be brought online sooner rather than later and damages made up for, but sometimes fires consume more than can be replaced. The LDA fire from March ’13 for example which, unfortunately, also passed without the government learning a lesson. Not only did it take 25 lives, but also burnt down official records, causing damage that is not even possible to quantify. Similarly, some years ago Lahore District Court was burnt to ashes, again wiping out old records.
There have, of course, also been instances where far more lives have been lost owing to the low priority accorded to fire safety. The most prominent is the Karachi garments factory fire a couple of years ago, in which more than 200 people were burnt alive. On the same day Lahore, too, suffered a fire; this one was in a shoe factory where another 25 people were killed.
Fires have been a regular phenomenon in many places. But in most parts of the world people have learned from bad experiences and implemented safety controls which not only prevent short-circuit fires that are so common here, but also include rapid-response, which saves lives and property. The concerns of our rulers seem grander than basic issues like fire safety, etc. But since they cause so much damage and take so many lives, they will have to wake up to it.