THE early morning fire in the studio of a private TV channel in Lahore on Monday is another painful reminder of the lack of concern for safety standards in Pakistan. At least five people were reported killed while over a dozen were injured when the blaze erupted during a live sehri transmission. The fire was apparently caused by a short circuit but ended up consuming the whole studio.
A stampede ensued after the fire broke out, yet there was no clearly marked exit door, while police say there was also a lack of fire-extinguishing equipment in the studio. To save a few rupees building owners cut corners; structures are often not equipped with fire extinguishers while it is common for many buildings in Pakistan to lack clearly marked fire exits and signage. There is also a lack of trained individuals who can guide people in case of an emergency.
While such tragedies point to neglect, they also reflect a lack of concern for human life both at the state and societal levels. Just in the past few months there have been similar incidents involving buildings, houses and vehicles. Yet apart from initial expressions of shock and remorse, nothing is done by the state or individuals to ensure that following safety codes becomes standard practice. Soon after the tragedy the incident is forgotten, along with all promises of setting things right. With particular reference to structures that hold large numbers of people such as theatres, schools, banquet halls, apartment blocks, etc, the authorities must ensure there are well-marked fire exits and fire extinguishers capable of putting out different types of blazes in place.
The same is true for recording and television studios, which require additional adherence to safety codes considering the extensive flammable equipment that is found in these facilities.