Saturday, June 27, 2009

Firecracker factory blast claims four lives

A loud explosion was reported inside an illegal firecracker factory in Gharibabad, within the Sharifabad police limits. Four persons including a woman died, while 20 people, including women and children, were injured. The police seized cartons of firecrackers from the factory. The owner of the ilelgal set up is still at large.

Eyewitnesses and police sources said that an explosion was heard at around 5.00pm from inside a double-storey house. They added that the explosion was so loud that people initially thought of it as an “act of terrorism”.

Sources added that a man called Azeem Khan was running the illegal factory for many years. He was currently making a huge consignment for the upcoming Shab-e-Baraat celebration. Following the blast, the house collapsed completely, and damaged adjoining houses as well.

Residents of the area personally started the rescue operation by throwing water and mud on the fire, and also informed rescue departments. The residents added that no heavy machinery (for removing debris) could enter the area due to the small lanes. Fire tenders could not enter either, and fire fighters had to stretch the water pipes to extinguish the resulting blaze.

During the rescue operation, a fire suddenly erupted in a Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) pipeline that had been damaged due to the explosion, but the SSGC emergency team arrived at the location, and shut off the locality’s gas supply. Moreover, due to a short circuit, the Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) cut the electricity connection of the area and started removing wires.

The residents alleged that this illegal firecracker warehouse had been operating for many years but no law-enforcer had taken notice. They added that when they protested following the blast, Rangers and police moved them away and cordoned off the area.

The body of a woman was recovered from the debris, and a child was rescued. The dead and injured were shifted to the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital (ASH). Hospital sources said that the 20 injured people, including women and children, were received, along with the body of one woman, identified as 45-year-old Mussarat, wife of Zakir while three bodies were also found from the rubble. The bodies of two men were identified as Saleem alias Munna Bhai, 25 and Abu Bhai, 35, while the body of the third person remained unknown. Most of the injured were badly burned, while a few were injured because their houses collapsed, hospital sources added that from the three men.

Liaquatabad Town Naib Nazim Rehan Siddiqi said that the blast was reported in Union Council (UC)-7. He added that five houses were damaged and 15 others were affected in the blast. Liaquatabad Town Superintendent of Police (SP) Jam Zafarullah Dharejo said during investigation, it was found that the house belonged to Azeem Khan, who lived on the second floor of the factory.

He added that the owner was not present in the factory at the time of the blast, and a case has been registered against him at the Sharifabad Police Station.

Dharejo added that Sharifabad Station House Officer (SHO) Syed Mohsin Raza has been suspended for negligence, and a departmental inquiry has been initiated against him.

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