What Happened: A huge fire broke out at Lahore’s most famous tech bazaar, Hafeez Centre. The fire erupted on Sunday morning, October 18, and raged on until 9:00 PM. The Punjab Emergency Service, Rescue 1122, said that they received the fire call at 6:11 AM, which means the fire ravaged Hafeez Centre for about 15 hours.
The fire which broke out on the second floor ended up reaching the fourth floor of the Hafeez Centre building, eventually engulfing 60% of the structure in flames. At least 500 shops situated on the second, third and fourth floors were damaged whereas the shops on the first and ground were fortunately safe from any major destruction from the reaches of the fire
The CCPO, Umar Sheikh claims 25 people were evacuated and no lives were lost in the fires.
How Did The Fire Start: The fire was caused due to an electrical short circuit on the second floor. Lax fire and building safety laws and follow ups, and irresponsible piling of unsafe, erratic, and stray wiring added to an already unsafe and overloaded amount of circuits.
Previously, there have been three incidents of fires at Hafeez Centre between 2008-2010. The cause of the fires then were also attributed to short circuits. Rescue 1122 experts had provided to the plaza association “building safety guidelines” to prevent such accidents.
Reactions of the Traders and Businessmen of Hafeez Centre: Traders and shop owners did all they could to save their valuables from the fires; they continued to move their electronics to safety through the ground floor despite the ongoing fires and hazardous situation.
The traders were seen weeping and crying as they watched their business burn in the fire. Many stood outside giving ‘azaan’ and holding their hands out in prayers.
Raju, a shop owner in the building, claimed he called the Rescue Service at 6:09 AM, but they arrived an hour late at around 7:15 AM.
The traders are demanding the government announce compensation packages for all those whose shops and goods have been burnt to a crisp. There has been an outcry from store owners stating the collective loss is over billions of rupees and they will be unable to recover their livelihoods following the incident.
Speaking to The News, Malik Kaleem, President of Ajnuman-e-Tajiran Hafeez Center said that almost 100 shops suffered around Rs 20 to Rs 25 million inventory loss each while 150 to 200 suffered Rs 1.5 to Rs 3 million loss each.
What Will Happen Now: The area will remain cordoned off as investigations and the last of the cooling operations take place in the building. There is still heavy traffic in the area, with a road leading to the building still closed to traffic.
According to a notification sent out, authorities have set up a 14-member inquiry committee to probe the Hafeez Centre fire incident
Deputy Commissioner Mudassar Riaz has been appointed to lead and act as convener of the committee, with Assistant Commissioner Model Town, SP Model Town, and chief engineer Building Central Zone as its members. The other members included are officials from Metropolitan Corporation of Lahore and Rescue 1122 who will seek to work out the “underlying causes of the fire”, examine infrastructural stability and assess the effectiveness of the emergency response by the concerned departments.
The committee will investigate the incident and submit a final report to the commissioner within seven days.
Owners of the stores, storage units and stalls continue to wait for an official statement from the government regarding any compensation packages.