LAHORE: The Lahore Police and district administration has sealed Hafeez Center Plaza, declaring it dangerous for business and other uses, according to media report.
The plaza was sealed on the recommendations of a 14-member committee formed by the Punjab government to conduct a preliminary investigation into the horrific fire at the Hafeez Center on Sunday.
The decision was taken after the committee including Lahore Police, district government and Rescue 1122 experts who had inspected the plaza noticed small and large cracks in the multi-storey building due to the severity of the fire.
Their findings also revealed that the Civil Defense Lahore’s (CDL) district office had reported 9 violations to the Hafeez Center Market Association (HCMA) on August 18 whereas the plaza’s association had also ignored warnings regarding inactivity of fire extinguishers.
In a letter to the president and HCMA general secretary, the Civil Defense, during a visit in August, had pointed out that the hydrant of the water tank at the roof, automatic fire alarm, detection system, fire point and fire control room were not working.
They pointed out that full face masks, which were required to be stocked on every floor, were not present to avoid the effects of fire and smoke in an emergency and the fire extinguishers on various floors were not working properly.
An officer of the department had given the senior administration of the plaza association 15 days to identify the defects and rectify them.
Meanwhile, a few armed personnel of Lahore Police have been deployed around the plaza to prevent shopkeepers and other passers-by from entering so that no further accidents take place.
According to sources in the police, the police officials met with representatives of the Hafeez Center Union and took them into confidence over the decision to seal the plaza., persuading them not to resume businesses until they receive clearance from the district administration.
Speaking to media, an official of Rescue 1122 who inspected the plaza revealed that the damage could be greater than estimated and reported on the day of the incident.
He said that water spray which was used to put out the fire damaged the electronics on the ground floor. “Mobile phones and other equipment were particularly damaged by water accumulating in the basement.”
The official further informed that most fire incidents during the year were due to gross violation of building rules.
Initial reports also state that the fire was caused by a short circuit and out of 904 shops of the 6-storey plaza, 20 shops were affected while 687 were declared safe.
According to the details, out of 134 shops on the fourth floor, 73 were affected while 61 were declared safe. Similarly, 73 out of 143 shops on the third floor were burnt down and 70 remained safe. Out of 126 shops on the second floor, 57 were affected and 69 were safe and 4 out of 100 first floor shops were affected and 96 were declared safe.
The report added that 186 shops on the ground floor and 215 shops in the basement remained safe.
The report also states that structural engineering will determine the usability of the building in seven days whereas it has been decided that samples of all burnt portions would be sent to the building material testing laboratory.
Meanwhile, the traffic police have blocked all the roads leading to the plaza and diverted the traffic to alternative routes, causing difficulties for residents and commuters, especially those who have to move within and around Gulberg and Main Boulevard.
The police and traffic officials are also conducting joint patrols.