LAHORE: The Lahore police and district administration have sealed the Hafeez Centre Plaza, declaring it dangerous for business and other uses, Pakistan Today learnt on Tuesday.
The plaza was sealed on the recommendations of a 14-member committee formed by the Punjab government to conduct a preliminary investigation into the horrific fire at the Hafeez Centre on Sunday.
Members of the Lahore police, district government officials and Rescue 1122 experts inspected the plaza and noticed small and large cracks in the multi-storey building due to the severity of the fire.
The recent developments in this regard have revealed that the Hafeez Centre Market Association had ignored warnings from Civil Defence Lahore (CDL) regarding inactivity of fire extinguishers.
According to a copy of the letter written by CDL, 9 basic flaws and violations were reported to the Plaza Association on August 18.
In the letter to the president and general secretary of the Hafeez Centre Association, the CDL pointed out that the hydrant of the water tank at the top of the building was not working.
Officials also said in the letter that the automatic fire alarm, detection system, fire point and fire control room were not working properly.
The letter further pointed out that full face masks to avoid the effects of fire and smoke in an emergency were required to be present on every floor but these masks were not available and the fire extinguishers on various floors were not working properly.
In addition, a Civil Defence officer had given 15 days to the senior administration of the Plaza Association to identify the defects and rectify them.
Moreover, a few armed personnel of Lahore police have been deployed around the plaza to prevent shopkeepers and other passers-by from entering the plaza so that no further accidents occur.
Reportedly, police officials met with representatives of the Hafeez Centre Union and took them into confidence over the decision to seal the plaza. Lahore police persuaded them not to resume business until they received clearance from the district administration.
Meanwhile, the traffic police in Lahore blocked all the roads leading to Hafeez Centre and diverted the traffic to alternative routes, causing difficulties to the people, especially in Gulberg Main Boulevard. Police and traffic officials also conducted joint patrols.
An official of Rescue 1122, who was inspecting the plaza, revealed that the damage could be greater than estimated on the day of the incident.
He added that on the floors where the fire could not reach, the water spray damaged the electronics. Mobile phones and other equipment were particularly damaged by water accumulating in the basement.
The official further informed that most of the fire-related incidents during the year were due to gross violation of building rules and the Hafeez Centre similarly lacked firefighting equipment and facilities.
Lahore Commissioner Zulfiqar Ghuman also presented the preliminary fact-finding report of the 14-member committee on the Hafeez Centre fire incident to the chief minister of Punjab and the CM will decide on the compensation.
According to initial reports, the fire was caused by a short circuit and out of 904 shops on the sixth floor of the plaza, 20 shops were affected badly and 687 were declared safe.
The report states that out of 134 shops on the fourth floor, 73 were affected while 61 were declared safe. Similarly, 73 out of 143 shops on the third floor were burnt down and 70 remained safe. Out of 126 shops on the second floor, 57 were affected and 69 were safe and 4 out of 100 first floor shops were affected and 96 were declared safe.
The report further added that 186 shops on the ground floor and 215 shops in the basement remained safe.