The burning and collapse of Gakhar Plaza, Rawalpindi

Was any one at the incident scene today?

Gakhar Plaza situated on Bank Road in Rawalpindi caught fire and collapsed on itself. Unfortunately, many of the fire fighters and rescuers were still inside and were trapped/crushed under the rubble.

I returned just now from the incident location and it was a very revealing experience looking into the mechanisms in play on such incidents. There was gross mismanagement from the official authorities, lack of equipment or incomplete equipment, politics and credit wrangling and stupid crowd being an obstacle.

Perhaps, the most painful thing to see was the credit whoring by some Army personnel. I saw numerous times when the 1122 Rescue service workers found signs of a body and as soon as news spread, some Army major or Colonel came barging in, took control of the equipment and Army men started coming in hoards surrounding the scene and kicking out 1122 staff who had already set up a perimeter and were searching for survivors. The men operating the bulldozers and other heavy machinery had no idea how to proceed and what were the areas of key importance to tackle first and foremost. Overall, it was very disappointing. It was extremely sad when broken mangled bodies of the valiant fire fighters and rescue workers, who lost their lives trying to save the lives of others, were brought out dripping blood and one even having a cracked skull.

The media was extremely irresponsible and was constantly creating obstructions in the way of the rescue workers. One fool even went into a narrow recess after a coordinator for our team (DPART Pakistan) went in to snap some pictures of a dead body. That was a gross risk to everyone who was working inside to get the body out. They even violated rules regarding cordoning off of the affected areas and crossed the cordon line without any regard to the safety of the rescue workers and them working to get out people crushed under the concrete.

Despite what I stated above, there were some excellent individuals from the Army and Rescue 1122 who worked very hard with us and helped all along the way. It was refreshing to see such cooperation but it was disappointingly limited in scale.

I will post some pics which I took later. If anyone else was there, please share your experience(s).

Truly very sad indeed. My fav. shop (sadaf video center) was also in the same plaza

According to eye-witnesses, this all began as a small fire

that could have easily been contained, had the building

been up-to-code; regarding fire-fighting equipment and

proper fire exits on the premises.

There *is* a reason why building in the developed world

have sprinklers, fire hoses, extinguishers, fire doors and

hydrants. While people in the developing world scoff at

such one-time capital expenditures, it is infinitely better

than scooping-up the remains after such a tragic ending.

The alternative exits of this particular building were closed

off to make room for more shops to put-up for rent by

the greedy owner.

You particularly feel for the brave first responders who

strode into the burning building, only to be crushed under

it's rubble. One of the fire-fighters in the hospital confessed

that they had faulty hoses with little water pressure from

the fire tenders to fight the fire. That's why they had to

move-in close, inside the building. The initial fire was only

10-15 feet from the front entrance of the building, according

to witnesses.

These were brave, young and trained men who seem to

have been let down by an in-efficient, corrupt and inept

bureaucracy. It takes years of love, caring, attention and

education to bring-up a contributing member of a society.

Abroad, the media and the public would be asking for the

head of the bureaucrats and legislators who let them down.

But here, thanks to public apathy, things will never improve.

The scoundrels in public office will continue to get away with

murder. Next time, it might be one of our loved-ones under

that rubble. We forfeit our right to complain then, if we don't

demand action now.

.

.

.

Sheikh 'The Beat Goes On...' Chilli

[quote=", post:, topic:"]

stupid crowd being an obstacle…I returned just now from the incident location…
[/quote]

And I guess you were also a part of that crowd :P

Similar incident happened a while back, at Rabi center…in that case the fire broke out really late at night but still people got wind and ended up rushing to the scene…

Ghakar plaza has shops (some the size of closets, literally) in every nook and craney, so there is no question of any concept of fire exits…

I can't agree more with Asad and sheikh_chilli.

Hearing the news from my friend, I was there, called my brother and friends to do volunteer work but officials were not letting us.

Anyway, we stood there, saw the efforts, both good and bad. Crowd was gathering and when I couldn't see people-in-authority cashing the sad incident with politics, I simply left the horrific scene.

Media was very irresponsible. Couldn't describe in words.

There were other people too who wanted to volunteer but of course, in Pakistan, it's all about who is in the camera and that's where uniform kicked in.

I talked to army officials and they said this is cantonment area and that's why they have full rights to do whatever and however they they find fit. Army officials response was not only cold but treatment was like we are shudder or responsible for fire.

On the contrary, police behavior was surprisingly better than usual. There was no latthi charge or other draconian ways to control crowd (at least when I was there).

Rescue 1122 did tremendous job. Their respect raised to high level in my eyes.

Anyhow, it was extremely sad incident. My observation along with others with me that it is clear that disaster at this scale could be prevented with proper preemptive equipment and training to civilians working there.

I believe there is still time, government and civilians should get basic training of disaster management and basic/first-aid with disaster prevention training and proper equipment at each building that is of 4 stories or more in whole Pakistan.

[quote=", post:, topic:"]

And I guess you were also a part of that crowd :P
[/quote]

No. I am a trained first responder. I was there alongside the Army and 1122 working for the rescue effort with my team. Some NVM volunteers are also a part of our team. We reached there sometime around 5 in the evening and set up a staging point for coordination.

[quote=", post:, topic:"]

Ghakar plaza has shops (some the size of closets, literally) in every nook and craney, so there is no question of any concept of fire exits…

[/quote]

Sheikh Chilli rightly points out that the lack of exits was problematic. This created problems for the fire fighters themselves who couldn’t exit the building in time.

These men who lost their lives or were injured have a hell lot more courage and backbone than those cowards in the government who supposedly lead us.

[quote=", post:, topic:"]

Hearing the news from my friend, I was there, called my brother and friends to do volunteer work but officials were not letting us.

[/quote]

People were quite eager to help but they were just adding to the crowd. There were already too many non-trained people there who were hindering the rescue effort. While the motivation and response from the crowd is appreciable, it does hinders work when relatives and others try to force rescuers to focus on specific areas while ignoring other areas. I saw this myself when certain people tried to get Army to focus on the right most side of Gakhar plaza despite a snake camera not finding anything through the rubble. There is only so much one can do to pacify the crowd instead of focusing on the area which needs the most attention.

Furthermore, the crowd being there also makes evidence hard to find in case this was arson or if criminal investigation was to begin.

[quote=", post:, topic:"]
Anyway, we stood there, saw the efforts, both good and bad. Crowd was gathering and when I couldn’t see people-in-authority cashing the sad incident with politics, I simply left the horrific scene.
[/quote]

Yeah. It was disheartening to see the credit whoring.

[quote=", post:, topic:"]
Media was very irresponsible. Couldn’t describe in words.
[/quote]

True.

[quote=", post:, topic:"]
I talked to army officials and they said this is cantonment area and that’s why they have full rights to do whatever and however they they find fit. Army officials response was not only cold but treatment was like we are shudder or responsible for fire.
[/quote]

Some of them were jerks but some of them were also quite helpful.

[quote=", post:, topic:"]
On the contrary, police behavior was surprisingly better than usual. There was no latthi charge or other draconian ways to control crowd (at least when I was there).
[/quote]

Yeah. They only set up obstructions later on in the evening. Then they started cordoning off the area up to the chowk (right side of Gakhar plaza). I wish they had thrown the media out too. Saman, Express and Geo had their media vans parked right outside Rahat Bakery.

[quote=", post:, topic:"]
Rescue 1122 did tremendous job. Their respect raised to high level in my eyes.
[/quote]

Yes indeed. They did tremendous work. I only wish there was more coordination.

[quote=", post:, topic:"]
Anyhow, it was extremely sad incident. My observation along with others with me that it is clear that disaster at this scale could be prevented with proper preemptive equipment and training to civilians working there.
[/quote]

True. Why don’t you join some such organization for training as a first responder?

[quote=", post:, topic:"]
I believe there is still time, government and civilians should get basic training of disaster management and basic/first-aid with disaster prevention training and proper equipment at each building that is of 4 stories or more in whole Pakistan.
[/quote]

Yeah. The focus of the disaster management approach is on authorities responding to any incident. Instead, the focus should include Community First Responders (CFRs) who can look after minor incidents in their own communities. If a bigger disaster occurs, the CFRs can be mobilized to provide initial support.

Here are some pictures:

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Posted pictures © DPART

Pakistani fire briagade should be renamed as Shower Brigade bcz they alwys fail.

One or two years ago when there was a fire in Shaheed-e-Milat Secretariat in Islmabad, they had no equipment to throw water to 13th floor so they let the upper floors burnt. 2nd time, it was Marriot, when they failed again where there was little fire ,, but 2nd day fire was turned off itself due to heavy rain. This time it is Gakhar Plaza, where there is still fire. They alwys fail to handle the fire.

so they can just shower the water, but can't handle the fire.