Poor safety measures in commercial buildings take lives


Lahore: The father of six-year-old Eeman Shahzad blames the government’s authorities and administration of the plaza for ignoring safety measures which took his daughter’s life. Eeman died after falling from third floor of a busy shopping mall in Lahore this January.

Close Circuit Television (CCTV) footage, repeatedly aired on local television channels on her death, showed that the girl fell through an open space near the escalator while trying to come down. The footage showed the girl falling on the ground floor of the building and some people rushing to save her.

According to the footage, Eeman was with her uncle at the Xhinua Mall on Mehmood Ali Kasuri Road, Lahore. On the third floor, she went towards the fence and suddenly fell down. “Ignoring public safety measures while constructing commercial plazas is a big question on the performance of the city development authorities,” Shahzad Saleem, the father of the deceased girl told News Lens Pakistan.

Eeman succumbed to her injuries in a local hospital. People have also made a page on Facebook asking the government to take serious action against those who are responsible for this negligence. The page titled ‘Eeman Our Hope’ seeks justice for the departed minor.

His father said it was strange that an under construction floor in the plaza was open for people and no official authority had noticed it. He said there was no warning sign at the place where his daughter fell from.

A senior official of Lahore Development Authority (LDA), the government organization responsible for approving designs and constructions of all domestic and commercial buildings of the city, requesting not to be named for his personal and job’s security, termed death of the girl “purely accidental.” “It was first-of-its-kind accident in any shopping mall and, thus, the authority cannot be blamed for it,” he added. He said the safety measures in the buildings mainly included fire extinguishers and emergency exits. The plaza administration has also blamed Eeman’s parents for showing carelessness in handling her at such height.

“Such incidents expose how safety measures are often ignored in the construction design of multi-storey shopping malls,” Inayatullah, the former bureaucrat and the Chairman of Civic Forum, a group of activists working for peoples’ rights, told News Lens Pakistan. He said shopping malls were meant for the public use and convenience. “It is duty of the concerned departments to ensure the safety of people using these facilities,” he said while calling for strict action against the culprits. He said in all such accidents the concerned authorities continued to blame each other rather than fixing responsibilities.

“There have been incidents of fire due to no safety measures in the plazas in the past. On December 29, 2014, 13 people died of suffocation in a market at Anarkali because the main entrance of the plaza caught fire and there was no other way for exit,” Dr Rizwan Naseer, the Director General Rescue 1122, the official rescue department of the Punjab government, told News Lens Pakistan.

He said poor implementation of the building bylaws and weak supervisory role are the causes of such accidents. He said a large number of commercial buildings in the city were not meeting defined standards. In September 2012, at least 25 workers died when fire erupted inside a shoe factory located in Lahore’s congested residential area.


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