By Ghulam Haider
Emergency services put out a large fire that broke out at the Centaurus Mall in the centre of Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, on Sunday afternoon. Police say everyone in the shopping centre was evacuated safely and no casualties were reported.
Images on social media showed a huge plume of smoke emanating from the building, with flames both inside and outside the shopping centre. They also showed people trying to leave the building.
The fire broke out at lunch time, with footage showing roaring flames near the food court while it was packed with visitors.
The Capital Development Authority (CDA) said the fire was under control after two hours.
No major injuries were reported and rescue teams safely evacuated people after a massive fire broke out.
The rescue and fire-fighting teams arrived on the scene moments after the fire was reported around 4 pm. Two hours later, Islamabad Deputy Commissioner Irfan Nawaz Memon said that the fire has been completely contained and the mall has been sealed for further investigation.
Panic and smoke
Video shared on social media showed scenes of panic at the mall as people were seen yelling and rushing toward the exit gates.
Thick black smoke was seen billowing from most of the floors of one of the three buildings of the Centaurus Mall situated in the heart of Pakistan’s capital city. The 27-floor building comprises a five-storey shopping mall with a food court on top and 23-floor residential and office towers.
The fire incident in the city has raised questions about fire safety plans and procedures at shopping malls and other buildings in Islamabad. “Every time I visited the food court of the mall, I noticed that they didn’t have full kitchens but just cylinders and stoves behind the counter with no proper fire safety mechanisms,” said Bahadur Abbas, an Islamabad resident. Other citizens suggested that there should be separate fire extinguishers at every store and restaurant at malls.
Government orders investigation
The government has ordered an investigation into the fire incident and asked the Islamabad administration to speed up rescue efforts. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said he had ordered relevant institutions and authorities to take urgent measures. “It is very unfortunate that this incident happened in this well-known business centre. I pray that there is no loss of life. Condolences and sympathies for the financial losses of the victims,” he tweeted.