The lack of rescue and fire-fighting facilities is mostly ignored until a tragedy strikes. On Tuesday, in a devastating inferno in Dadu, Sindh several children including adults were burnt to death and around two dozen men and women suffered severe burns. According to reports, the fire was triggered in a village about 30 kilometres from the town of Mehar in district Dadu. While the fire was raging, it consumed house after house, with over 50 homes eventually turning to ashes. That is more than 50 families that saw their belongings perish in front of their eyes. Some saw worse: their children burning to death. Apart from the human cost of the fire, hundreds of animals- domesticated and otherwise- have also become charred corpses. And all this happened just because there were no fire-fighting services nearby. Most village dwellings in our rural areas do not have concrete houses, so a spark in one kitchen can quickly turn into a raging inferno and engulf dozens of houses in minutes.
In such situations, the early arrival of a fire brigade, as well as rescue services, can control the spread of fire. In fact, there have long been demands that Sindh initiates an 1122-like service but not much has happened on that till now, despite the Sindh government having announced it would work on one. This is why the fire that started around 9 pm on Monday raged for more than 12 hours and no fire tender reached the village till the next morning. No amount of consolation now can alleviate the pain of parents who collected the charred bodies of their children. There is also the loss of property, food grain stock and cattle without which many families will not be able to survive. The district and local administration were either unable or unwilling to help.
Fires are not a rare occurrence, especially in big cities in the country. Even there, the fire-fighting services are in desperate need of equipment training and support from the government. In the rural areas, the fires mostly go unreported unless there is a huge loss of life. The absence of an effective and functioning local government system has a lot to do with this lack of preparedness of local administration. But let this be said: the Sindh government cannot gloss over such tragic incidents. It is fully responsible for not being able to furnish all districts and Tehsils with fire and rescue services.
No amount of financial compensation to the grieving families will bring their children back. Year after year, the people of this country are put through unimaginable horror, just because the Federal and Provincial governments cannot get their act together. From freezing to death in Murree to burning to death in Mehar how much more can Pakistani citizens be asked to bear? The PPP talks a good game about democracy, justice, and fair play when it comes to governing Sindh it turns a blind eye to injustice-as in the case of Nazim Jokhio-and sheer incompetence and disregard for human life-as in the burnt bodies of Mehar.
IMRAN ALI BANGWAR