Once more, a tragic fire has struck Karachi, this time consuming a six-story building on Shahrah-i-Pakistan that is both commercial and residential. In addition to an incalculable amount of property lost, at least four people have died and multiple others have been injured. This incident begs concerns about the city’s preparedness for such emergencies, coming so soon after the RJ Mall fire. Despite being praiseworthy in scope, the fire response brings to light systemic problems. It is alarming that snorkels are taking longer to arrive and that there seems to be a lack of coordination between the various emergency services. It is also upsetting to learn that locals were more crucial to the evacuation process than the official responders.The fact that these disasters keep happening suggests a deeper problem: lax fire safety regulations. It is a flagrant oversight that the structure contained stores selling mattresses, foam, and other highly flammable materials without what appears to be sufficient fire safety precautions. It raises concerns about how strictly the government enforces safety laws and building codes.
The inquiry ordered by the acting chief minister is a positive step, but it shouldn’t be overlooked like so many other pledges. There has been no discernible conclusion to the investigation into the RJ Mall fire, nor have any modifications been made.Karachi’s residents require proactive steps to avert such incidents in the first place, not just post-tragedy comforts. The government’s decision to start a fire safety audit in commercial buildings is a good step, but it must be an ongoing, citywide initiative to make sure all structures adhere to safety regulations. It’s time the city implemented stricter fire safety laws and created a more efficient emergency response system. The lives lost in such avoidable accidents serve as a sobering reminder of the price of carelessness and passivity. Residents of Karachi have a right to live in a safe city, and it is the responsibility of the government to make sure that safety is more than just a promise.