No death occurred in cold storage of Karachi airport: Report

ISLAMABAD: The fact-finding committee on fire incident in Gerry’s Dnata Cargo Complex has concluded in its report that no death occurred in the cold storage of Karachi airport, which infact was far away from the actual place of casualties.

The three-member committee headed by Air Commodore Noor Elahi Bajwa, was constituted on the instructions of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for finding facts on the fire incident at
Gerry’s Dnata Cargo Complex, after Karachi airport was attacked on the night of June 8 and 9.

The committee dispelled the media impression that the deaths had occurred after 24 hours of the incident and that people were trapped in the cold storage.

The government took notice of the incident and on immediate basis appointed an independent committee headed by Air Commodore Noor Elahi Bajwa with Bashir Jan Muhammad and Ahmed Chinoy as members to investigate into the circumstances under
which 08 precious lives were lost in the Gerry’s Dnata Cargo Complex.

The government also assigned the responsibility to committee to investigate for negligence(s), if any, and to suggest remedial measures so that such unfortunate occurrences are avoided in future.

The committee’s report said that no death was occurred in cold storage and in fact cold storage is far away from the actual place of casualties.

The committee found that information about cold storage was miscounted and was completely incorrect.

The committee went into the details that those 08 persons were actually trapped inside the office of Gerry’s Dnata Cargo Complex.

This has also been confirmed from the various agencies like ASF, Police, Rangers and Army as well.  Therefore, the impression about cold storage was not correct and misleading for
the rescue team.

Moreover, it said, the bodies were also found from the office of Gerry’s Dnata Cargo Complex which was located 150 feet away from the cold storage area.

The committee interviewed all the relevant people around the fire site and came to the conclusion that these 8 personnel were unfortunately trapped in Gerry’s Dnata Cargo Office.  While those who managed to escape, made themselves hide at safe locations away from Gerry’s Cargo Complex.

The Committee also inquired the reasons that why fire was so intense and the committee through forensic lab, examined that the contents stored in the cargo warehouse, which revealed that it included lithium batteries of mobile phones in huge quantity, which actually added fuel to the fire remained basic cause of fire spread.

Moreover, presence of dangerous goods and other materials was also instrumental spreading of fire, it added.

The Committee highlighted that though efforts were made by all the agencies like ASF, Fire Fighters, CAA but they were not equipped to handle such sort of exceptional circumstances,
which prevailed not only in Karachi but throughout the country.

The committee also noted that though airport was already under threat, but on the contrary the authorities and cargo handling agents were neither trained nor equipped to handle such emergencies unlike modern airports of the developed countries.

The committee interviewed numerous personnel and agencies which included; the authorities of Civil Aviation, airport management, ASF, Rangers, Army, Police, cargo handlers/agencies, the personnel who could save their lives on that day and relatives of victims, who have been in touch with them during the course of incident.

The committee also went through the records of mobile phones of the relatives/families of the victims to whom they have been communicating from time to time during the incident.

The committee also went through the communication records of various agencies like Cargo agencies and Airport etc.

The committee learnt initially from the media that death of those people occurred after the 24 hours of the incident, even it was said that deaths were occurred after 1600 hours next day (10-06-14).

The committee examined the evidences and called the doctors from Jinnah Hospital where the post mortems were carried out.  Committee also called up the families of the victims,
interviewed them and asked about the phone calls and it was confirmed from all the evidences like phone records obtained through Citizens’ Police Liaison Committee of relatives/families.

Doctors, post mortem reports also confirm that last death was occurred before 0200 hours on 09-06-2014.

Then the committee went into the circumstances whether this could have been avoided. The committee went deep into the fire fighters domain, recorded their in-detail interviews
and closely examined the CCTV footage of the incident to inquire the efficiency of fire tender facilities and it was clearly proved that the fire tender reached at the site of
incident at 23:25 hours on 8 June, 2014, when the first sign of fire was reported but when the fire tender reached the site of incident, the terrorists opened fire at them and they had
to retreat.

Out of four bullets fired, one hit on the hand of fire fighter, while remaining hit the wind screen of fire tender.

The second attempt to extinguish the fire was made at 02:15 hours on 09 June, 2014 which was again called off due to the firing from the terrorists.  Finally the fire fighting started at 0345 hours on 9 June, 2014.

The committee asked the fire fighting agencies that why they had not made any attempt during the 2325 hours to 0215 hours to 0345 hours which could have been better, but committee was told that the area was not cleared by the security agencies and there was
fear of firing and the terrorists could have thrown grenades.

Resulting into more loss as fire fighters were not equipped or dressed with any life saving uniforms nor any cover of security, but despite all they made attempts of fire fighting even under fire from terrorists.  The committee acknowledges the efforts  of fire fighters.

It is also noted that the loss would have been much more if the security agencies like ASF, Police, Rangers and Pak Army would have not played their effective role in time.

The committee salutes the persons who not only saved the Airport but also saved the country from a lot bigger losses and catastrophe.

The committee finally concludes that there should be a designated department for handling emergencies of this sort and help create preconditions favorable for the safety of personnel and infrastructure.

The committee hopes that Government and authority concerned will implement these guidelines to avoid such incidents as the country is already in warlike situation and undergoing difficult time.

The Committee also hopes that all concerned departments/authorities would play their role more effectively to avoid recurrence of this nature. The Committee feels that there is no substitute of human lives and the losses endured by the families cannot be measured. The Committee, therefore, has recommended suitable compensation for the deceased families and also advised the owner of Gerry’s Dnata Cargo to do the needful in this time of need and
also to look into the possibility of providing job opportunity for their immediate family member.

The Committee also hopes that Government of Pakistan and authorities shall also compensate the victims.  Besides, some of the Gerry’s Dnata employees, though could save their lives miraculously, but have undergone a major trauma of their lifetime.

At present they are mentally shocked, while some of them have got injuries too, therefore, they may also be compensated and may accordingly be given health and rehabilitation coverage.