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Shah Alam fire: By-laws violations made it harder to contain fire

LAHORE: Building Control laws, engineering norms and safety practices were flouted in the construction of the buildings affected by the Shah Alam market fire which occurred on February 9.

This made controlling the fire that raged on for about 28 hours difficult.
This was one of the key findings in the City District Government Lahore (CDGL) damade assessment report of the disaster.

The report, prepared by the Revenue and Works and Services departments, also stated that majority of the buildings in that area were very dangerous.

The committee, which had been set-up by the Punjab government in collaboration with TMOs, MPAs and various CDGL departments, agreed that the multi-storey buildings located in the area must be checked for structural and architectural adequacy.

The report observed that the construction materials used in som of the buildings appeared to be substandard and that public safety codes had been totally ignored in the construction of all buildings.

It was also stated that almost all buildings had been constructed in violation of the Lahore Development Authority (LDA), Town Municipal Authority and corporation by-laws. “Additional storeys had been built on top of buildings that had been approved for fewer storeys. The additional levels were added without consulting any structural engineers, which made them more vulnerable to fires and earthquakes,” the report notes. The CDGL report also recommends that unapproved portions of multi-storey buildings be demolished immediately and the owners be penalised.

The report also recommends that citizens be encouraged to report such cases of illegal and dangerous construction to authorities. Another suggestion was that a notification be issued, specifying that any construction in the future cannot be carried out without a structural evaluation.

Compensation debate

When asked whether the CDGL had come up with a compensation figure or a plan, a Revenue Department official said that they were working with Property, Excise and Taxation departments to figure out who had ‘legitimate’ claims. “We will recommend that only owners who did not violate any by-laws be compensated but the decision rests with the chief minister,” the official told The Express Tribune.
Another senior CDGL official chipped in with his comment, “How can the CDGL or Punjab government be asked to compensate for illegal buildings?”

The officials, however, refused to speculate on the subject saying that their focus, right now, was on making the market and area safer by ensuring that owners follow the standards in place.

Damage assessment

According to the report, damage in materials in Bahria Centre that collapsed was Rs807.5 million while the collapse had cost Rs26.124 million. The total loss of materials in all collapsed buildings, was Rs827.3m while structural losses came out to Rs28.394m. In the Qadri Plaza, the material loss was Rs269.31m with a structural loss of Rs70m. The grand total in terms of material loss was Rs1.13 billion and the structural loss Rs39.5m.

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