11 killed in fire at Karachi’s Regent Plaza hotel

At least 11 people were killed and 75 others injured when a huge fire erupted at Karachi’s Regent Plaza hotel early Monday, police and a doctor said.

Some people used sheets to climb down the building. — DawnNews
Some people used sheets to climb down the building. — DawnNews
The blaze broke out in the kitchen located at the ground floor of the four-star hotel located on the city’s Shahrah-i-Faisal, and swept through the building, trapping scores of hotel guests in their rooms.

Three trucks from the fire brigade reached the site and started an operation to rescue the guests.

The firefighters were able to contain the blaze after three hours, with 11 people having been killed, said a press release issued by the Saddar Police Station.

No fire exits?
Karachi mayor Waseem Akhtar speaking to reporters outside the hotel said the cause of the fire could not be immediately ascertained.

He said the hotel had “no fire exits or fire alarms”.

Karachi mayor talks to reporters.
“We have received 11 dead bodies and 75 injured,” Dr Seemin Jamali, head of the emergency services at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, told AFP.

Amongst the injured were people who had fractured bones after jumping from hotel windows to escape, others had been hurt by shattered glass and many were treated for smoke inhalation, she said.

She said six men, including three doctors and the hotel’s front desk manager, and five women were among the dead. Three foreigners affected by the fire are in a stable condition, said Jamali.

Guests gather outside Regent Plaza Hotel following the fire. — AFP
Guests gather outside Regent Plaza Hotel following the fire. — AFP
Most of the country’s buildings don’t meet safety standards to avoid such mishaps.

TV footage of the incident showed guests at the hotel using bedsheets to climb down from windows.

A man standing at a balcony kept waving for help but the hotel didn’t have any means to reach him, a survivor, Hamid Ali, told a local television channel. He said the guests were sleeping when the fire broke out.

“Trapped people showed courage and made ropes of bed sheets and came out one by one, many people have been injured,” hotel guest Saeed ur Rehman, himself wounded in the fire, told AFP.

Guests were left helpless, he said, for hours.

‘Most people died due to suffocation’
Chief Fire Officer Tehseen Siddiqui told DawnNews that although the blaze was not very intense and was contained “quite early”, the smoke kept circulating inside because the air conditioning system stayed on.

“Despite our requests, no one from the hotel management was there who could turn off the air conditioning.”

The aftermath of the fire.— DawnNews
The aftermath of the fire.— DawnNews
Siddiqui said there was no exhaust inside and due to this “most people suffocated to death”.

“No fire exits had been marked inside the hotel… the smoke detectors are there but they aren’t functioning. The [hotel’s] fire alarm also did not go off,” said the fire chief.

He further said that the hotel has now been evacuated completely.

Faisal Edhi of the Edhi Foundation said no one from the hotel management was there to guide rescue workers inside the hotel which was dark.

He said the rescue operation was difficult because people were communicating with trapped guests in Urdu, which some foreigners did not understand.

Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah has ordered the civil defence department to inspect and present a report investigating whether the hotel had the arrangements to extinguish the fire.

UBL players among injured
Cricket players from the United Bank Limited (UBL) team were among those injured in the blaze.

The team, which was staying at the fourth floor of the hotel, woke up to the fire, said Nadeem Khan, head of the UBL Sports Department.

He said bowler Yasim Murtaza’s ankle was fractured as he jumped from the second floor to save his life and the player is now recovering at a hospital. Karamat Ali was also injured.

International cricketer Sohaib Maqsood was also staying at the hotel but remained safe in the fire, said Nadeem, adding that Maqsood also helped rescue people. He said the UBL Quaid-i-Azam trophy match against Habib Bank Limited would be postponed today.

Sixteen crew members of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) also sustained injuries in the fire, spokesman Danyal Gilani said. He said most of the crew members have been discharged from hospital while some are still undergoing treatment.

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