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7 killed, 30 injured in explosion near Karachi’s Maskan Chowrangi

Bomb Disposal Squad confirms it was caused by gas leak

SAMAA | , and - Posted: Oct 21, 2020 | Last Updated: 1 month ago
Posted: Oct 21, 2020 | Last Updated: 1 month ago

Update: The death toll in the explosion at a building near Karachi's Maskan Chowrangi has risen to six. The sixth victim was a 19-year-old male. He passed away on October 23.

Update 2: The seventh victim passed away on Sunday, October 25.

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Five people have been killed and 30 injured in an explosion at a building near Karachi's Maskan Chowrangi on Wednesday morning.

Three people are in critical condition and two of the injured people are women.

Rescue, police and Rangers teams are at the scene. The area has been cordoned off and the bomb disposal squad examined the site.

It has determined that the explosion occurred due to a gas leak in one of the apartments. It was earlier being reported that the explosion could have been a bomb blast because the noise and intensity of the blast was considered too loud to be a gas or cylinder-related explosion.

maskan blast
Photo: SAMAA Digital

The police say the blast occurred within Meezan Bank. There were 18 staff members in the bank at the time of the blast.

A security guard was killed and the marks on his body indicate that it was a gas blast, according to the initial report given to police officials.

The explosion was reported on the mezzanine floor of the four-storey Allah Noor Apartments in Gulshan-e-Iqbal. The apartments are opposite the Karachi University gate. The ground and mezzanine floors both belong to Meezan Bank.

maskan blast
Photo: SAMAA Digital

There are fears that some people might be stuck beneath the rubble. The ground floor had the bank and businesses while residential apartments were located on top.

One section of the apartment has collapsed and the top floors have been evacuated.

The injured and deceased were initially taken to Patel Hospital and then shifted to Jinnah hospital and Abbasi Shaheed Hospital. Some people were also injured when rubble from the building fell on them.

The windows of nearby apartments shattered due to the intensity of the blast.

maskan blast
Photo: SAMAA Digital

Police officials initially had doubts about the nature of the blast but had theorised that it was a gas blast. Tuesday's blast in Shireen Jinnah Colony was initially declared a cylinder blast but ball bearings were later found at the scene.

In this case, no ball bearings or nuts and bolts were found at the scene, nor was there any smell of explosives.

maskan blast

Sindh Education Minister Saeed Ghani is at the scene and says one bank staffer is currently missing. We have been informed one person is missing and might be under the rubble, he said, adding that the rubble will be removed after he is found and then they will know the reason for the explosion.

Heavy machinery is at the scene to remove the rubble and debris.

maskan blast

The building has to be declared dangerous after this. The East DIG and SSP and Rangers Wing Commander are at the scene.

The building is currently vibrating and people are being moved back. Officials are hoping to complete the operation very quickly.

SSGC turns off the gas

SSGC officials say all the gas lines in the area are safe. The emergency teams reached the scene and have checked the lines. There were three meters in the building and all of them are fine. The gas supply to the building has been cut off and there is no chance of another blast, say officials.

Scenes at three hospitals

Eighteen people were brought to a private hospital in Gulshan-e-Iqbal's Block 4, according to a senior doctor at the facility, Dr Tariq Chundrigar. Five of those people were in critical condition. No more injured people have been brought to the hospital, which is near the blast site.

Five people were taken to Abbasi Shaheed Hospital and then sent on to Jinnah hospital when their condition became critical.

Three bodies have been taken to the Abbasi Shaheed Morgue. One victim has been identified by his family as Khalid.

The people injured at Abbasi Shaheed had broken arms and seemed to have injuries consistent with falling rubble.

Karachi Commissioner Iftikhar Shalwani said their priority is rescuing people beneath the rubble.

CM takes notice

Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah has taken notice of the explosion and summoned a detailed report from the Karachi commissioner. He also ordered the immediate provision of medical services to the injured and expressed his sorrow over the deaths.

maskan blast

What the area is like

The Mobina Town police station is very close to the blast site. Multiple small restaurants are also located in the area. The area is not a commercial area but is densely populated. The apartments are old and rather well known.

SBCA team at the scene

A team of the Sindh Building Control Authority reached the scene and will submit a report on the building’s future demolition and condition. The team has not been allowed to enter the building yet. They can only declare the building dangerous once they inspect it.

Traffic diverted

Traffic has been diverted from Abul Hassan Isphahani Road due to the blast. The road to Maskan from Safari Park and Disco Bakery has been closed.

Public transport is taking Hijri Road to reach Sohrab Goth.

Saylani truck catches fire nearby

A fire broke out at a Saylani Welfare Trust blood donation truck parked outside the foundation's blood bank located near Disco Bakery in Gulshan-e-Iqbal at around 12pm, causing panic. People believed the fire was related to the blast.

Everything was destroyed: resident

Syed Masroor Raza woke up at 9:25am to the sound of a loud bang and his room door hitting him on Wednesday.

He is a resident of Karachi’s Allah Noor Apartment in Gulshan-e-Iqbal and says his entire apartment was destroyed in the gas cylinder blast in the building.

“I had just woken up and heard a loud bang at around 9:25 in the morning. The door of my room broke, flew and hit me. After that, the window panes, glass, blinds and everything got destroyed,” he said.

Raza said it was devastating. He rushed to his mother’s room to check on her. She has diabetes and neurological problems. His sister and her two children were also there.

“They all were okay, but frightened as none of us knew what had happened,” he said.

His neighbour Kazim then told him there had been a blast at the bank on the first floor of the apartment’s building.

“We shifted our families to the safety of other people’s residence,” Raza said.   

He said there was a total loss of property and assets. The apartment is his own and has a current value of Rs9 million.

Government authorities, including the Karachi commissioner and administrator and East deputy commissioner assured Raza’s family of alternative housing, but he says they need a permanent solution.

Allah Noor Apartments has around 60 residential flats.

Can banks use residential buildings?

Sindh Building Control Authority Gulshan-e-Iqbal Director Muhammad Raqeeb told SAMAA Digital that residential spaces can be used as commercial spaces, but he was unable to explain how this is possible.

The SBCA director said he took charge just a month ago and did not exactly know the status of this particular area.

SBCA Director Information Ali Mehdi Kazmi said, however, that it is illegal for a bank to use a residential space.

“The bank was using the space illegally and SBCA will register a case against them,” Kazmi said.

He said Allah Noor Apartments were constructed in 1980 and some five years ago, Meezan Bank purchased its first floor for extension of its bank branch.

The SBCA technical committee visited the building and declared the particular residential block “dangerous”. The families on the third and fourth floors have vacated their houses.

SBCA Secretary on Dangerous Buildings Benish Shabbir said the authority will demolish the entire residential block.

Shabbir said the SBCA, as a building control authority, has nothing to do with the provision of giving alternative residence to the affected families and that the families should contact the bank administration for compensation.

With additional reporting by Ashraf Khan, Khursheed Alam, Mudassir Nazir and Sohail Rab Khan.

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