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In second major blaze in two weeks, three killed in fire at Karachi shopping centre

KARACHI: Three persons were killed on Wednesday after a fire engulfed a multi-story building in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi, a health official and rescue volunteer confirmed. 

The incident took place less than two weeks after another blaze in the metropolis killed 11 people and wounded several others after a shopping mall caught fire on Nov. 25. Pakistan’s largest city, which houses millions of residents, is known for its fragile firefighting system and poor safety controls. 

Local media channels showed black smoke billowing from the six-story Arshi Shopping Center located in Karachi’s Ayesha Manzil neighborhood on Wednesday evening. Rescue volunteers frantically scrambled to evacuate residents from the building as firefighters remained busy battling flames. 

According to local media reports, the fire was caused by a short circuit in one of the shops. The flames later spread rapidly and engulfed the entire building, which reportedly comprised 250 shops and 450 apartments. 

“At least three people have died in the fire,” Shahid Hussain, a spokesperson of the welfare organization Chhipa, told Arab News. “Their bodies are now being shifted to the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital.” 

Sindh Health Department spokesperson Shabbir Ali Babar confirmed in a statement that the bodies had been shifted to the hospital, adding that two others had been injured in the fire. 

“Two injured have been admitted to the Civil Hospital’s Burns Ward,” he said. “One of the persons who suffered 100 percent burns is in critical condition while another who suffered ordinary burns has been provided medical aid.” 

He said that an emergency has been imposed in Abbasi Shaheed Hospital, Civil Hospital, and other nearby hospitals as per the caretaker chief minister’s directives. 

In a post on social media platform X, Karachi Mayor Murtaza Wahab Siddiqui confirmed three persons had died in the blaze.

Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city and the country’s main commercial hub, is home to hundreds of thousands of industrial units and some of the tallest buildings in the South Asian country. 

But despite its magnitude, the city has only 22 fire stations, a little over a dozen functional fire tenders, few snorkels, and slightly more than a thousand firefighters — woefully inadequate for a megapolis that witnesses hundreds of fire incidents annually. 

In April, four firefighters died and nearly a dozen others were injured after a fire broke out in a garment factory, while 10 people were killed in a massive fire at a chemical factory in the city in August 2021. 

In the deadliest such incident, 260 people were killed in 2012 after being trapped inside a garment factory when a fire broke out.