A car caught fire in the basement of an apartment complex in Fraser Town on Saturday evening creating panic among the residents of 39 flats in the complex. Within no time, smoke engulfed the whole apartment resulting in a chaotic situation.

Amid screams of panic, residents scrambled to hurriedly help family members and neighbours out of the building.

More than 150 residents, including the aged and children, vacated the building from the only exit — a dark and smoke-filled staircase — while the apartment security guard turned off the main electricity switch and brought the lift to a halt.

Vishal Bali, a resident of the building, said the absence of a fire exit was sorely felt. “I could not see anything while hurrying down the smoke-filled staircase from my third floor residence.”

Kamran Ahmed, another resident, said the door to the terrace was locked. “There was no way out for the trapped residents except the smoke filled staircase. What would have happened had the fire spread from the basement to the apartments?” he said.

Two fire tenders reached the spot and extinguished the fire. The Fire and Emergency Services personnel cordoned off the building. Residents were allowed to return to their flats in the night after the smoke cleared.

Police and fire officials wondered how occupancy certificates were given though there were no fire prevention measures in place.

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