A million gallons of water, a three-day battle failed to extinguish a department store fire
Firefighters are feeling exhausted as the Sumayya Bridge View blaze, which erupted on Wednesday, has still not been fully extinguished after three days despite the expenditure of around one million gallons of water.
The fire had started in the warehouse of a department store in the basement of a multi-storey building near the Chowrangi prison. On Thursday, the firefighters claimed to have brought the fire under control and there were only a few hot plates left to put out, which would be done in a short time. However, that claim turned out to be false as the blaze was still not fully extinguished throughout Friday, with flames continuing to erupt in several places in the extremely hot building.
Meanwhile, firefighters have warned the cooling process will take at least two more days. While smoke and flames could be seen emanating from the basement, ground floors and mezzanines of the building as well as its parking area, nearly a dozen firefighters remained busy with the work of extinction throughout Friday, throwing water inside the building from different directions, breaking the walls and digging the path.
They also used foam and fire extinguisher balls to put out the flames. While firefighters said the intensity of the blaze had been brought under control, they also expressed concern that the situation could become serious should the fire engulf the first floor.
“We have controlled the intensity of the fire and now the cooling process is underway, which may take at least two more days,” said fire chief Mobin Ahmed. “The flames are erupting and will continue to erupt until the affected area is completely cleared.”
Excessive water use now poses another problem. According to the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board, one million gallons of water had so far been supplied to firefighters from three hydrants in case of emergencies. Ahmed said that as firefighters had been using water for three days to put out the fire, the water level had reached about five to six feet in the basement, creating difficulties for firefighters in their operations.
The fire chief added that the foundations of the building had already been damaged by the fire and that the presence of a huge amount of water in the basement could cause further damage to the building. He explained that suction pumps were used to extract water from the basement, due to which Kashmir Road and its surroundings were flooded.
Although a case has been filed against the owners of the department store, police have yet to arrest any of the suspects named in the FIR. “No arrests have been made so far,” confirmed SSP Altaf Hussain Investigations. He added that the named suspects were trying to get a protective bond. In response to a question, he clarified that the case was registered at the request of the Sindh Buildings Control Authority. “In fact, it was the primary responsibility of the SBCA to inspect the building and ensure law enforcement,” the officer noted. “Officials from the SBCA and other relevant authorities will also be on police radar during the investigations.”
The fire started around 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday in the warehouse of the department store in the multi-storey building near Chowrangi prison. Store management tried to put out the fire with available extinguishers and then called the fire department. Within minutes, smoke surrounded the entire building, creating panic among residents who rushed out. Many people living on upper floors were trapped and had to be evacuated using ladders.