At least 42 people, including children and women, were killed when a fire engulfed dozens of wooden homes in a shanty town in North-Karachi, on Thursday night, police and witnesses said on Friday. Sources at Bilal Colony police station told Business Recorder that 42 people, including 22 children and 16 women, were killed in the blaze, which broke out at 12:05am when most of the residents were sleeping.
A fire brigade official said that the shanty town was surrounded on three sides by large buildings, and the only escape route appeared to have been quickly blocked by the flames. "Most of the casualties seem to have been caused by the lack of an exit route," he said.
The medico-legal sources at Abbasi Shaheed Hospital said that 40 bodies were brought to the hospital while two injured persons brought to the hospital in a serious condition died during treatment. The Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Karachi Waseem Ahmed said that it took firefighters several hours to bring the fire under control. He said that initial investigations suggest that there was no foul play in the incident.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah has ordered an inquiry to find out the cause of the fire in North Karachi. He also formed a committee under the supervision of DIG West Abdul Majeed Dasti to probe into the carnage and directed it to submit a report to him within a week.
Talking to Business Recorder, Majeed Dasti said that investigators were also looking into the possibility that residents had started a small fire to beat the cold, and that the wind had whipped the flames out of control. He said that most of the huts were made of wood and the residents of the huts had coverd the roofs of their huts with plastic sheets to protect themselves from rain, which led to the high casualty. It was one of the deadliest fires seen in Karachi.
Once known for its suburban green spaces and tree-lined streets, Karachi is now a concrete jungle of haphazard settlements. More than half of the population lives in slums. Meanwhile, President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani have strongly condemned the carnage of fire incident in New Karachi. They also expressed grief and sorrows over the sad demise of the innocent people in the fire incident.