Family jump from second floor window to escape hotel fire

Naveed Khurram
Naveed Khurram

A man and his terrified family narrowly escaped death after they were forced to jump out of the second floor window of a hotel that was on fire.

Naveed Khurram, his wife Dr Fouzia Chugtai and their young son and daughter were staying at the Regent Plaza hotel in the Pakistani city of Karachi when the blaze broke out and killed 12 people, injuring 80.

It was an horrendous end to what should have been a joyful family reunion because Mr Khurram had just returnedfrom a three month stay in Edinburgh, sponsored by the Church of Scotland, that day.

The 38-year-old, who is currently doing a MSc in Global Health and was studying at Queen Margaret University, was woken up at 4am on Monday by a loud banging noise outside his room.

Jumped barefoot

He discovered the corridor was filled with smoke when he opened the door and after closing it, woke up his wife and terrified children.

Mr Khurram, an administrator at Kunri Christian Hospital, aChurch of Scotland partnerin the Diocese of Hyderabad, frantically set about working out how they were going to escape the hotel alive.

“We had poolside view so I picked up the floor lamp and broke the glass window pane with it,” he recalled.

“We were on the second floor and the roof of the first floor was not that far below.

“I jumped barefoot first and told my wife to throw out the children to me one by one.

“I managed to catch my four-year-old son but almost missed my seven-year-old daughter who dislocated a shoulder in the fall.

“Next I told my wife to throw me a mattress so that she could jump on it later.

“But she had misplaced her prescription glasses so when she jumped, she missed the mattress and fractured her right arm and left foot in the process.”

Hospital treatment

Mr Khurram, who stayed in a Springfield Street flat owned by the World Mission Council while at QMU, said the family then had to make it to the first floor of the hotel.

He said that he grabbed his son and stepped a few feet backwards to create a run-up for himself to be able to jump into the swimming pool – a feat he managed just barely.

Another hotel guest who had managed to reach the first floor from the fourth helped bring his daughter to the ground while his wife had to jump again.

This time she fractured her right leg in the process.

In an interview with a Pakistan newspaper, Mr Khurram said: “The pool, too, had shards of glass in it as others had also broken down their windows to escape.

“I wish there was a fire alarm and a fire exit for such emergencies at the hotel. But there was no such thing there.”

Mr Khurram said that only his son escaped unhurt and he and his wife and daughter were treated for injuries at the Aga Khan Hospital.

Prayers

Sandy Sneddon, Asia Secretary of the Church of Scotland World Mission Council, said: “I'm sure Naveed and his family were looking forward to being reunited and it must have been absolutely terrifying for them to realise they were trapped in their rooms by the fire.

“They did not escape unscathed and Fouzia has been quite seriously injured.

“Before he left Naveed told me he was keento get backto Kunri but was dreading the backlog of work that awaited him.

“His return to work will be further delayed but all of us here pray for him and Fouzia to full and speedy recoveries.

"There is no doubt that this was a traumatic experience for all involved.

"We ask that you remember them, and all those affected by the tragedy in your prayers.”

The Regent Plaza Hotel is a prominent landmark in Karachi and has been one of the city's most popular hotels since the 1970s.

The fire began in the kitchen on the ground floor of the hotel on Monday before spreading through the building.

An investigation is underway into how it started.