12 dead, 75 injured in Pakistan hotel fire

KARACHI (AFP) - A pre-dawn inferno at a four-star hotel in Pakistan's Karachi killed 12 people on Monday and wounded 75, police said, with desperate guests jumping from windows and scrambling down knotted bedsheets to escape.

The blaze at the Regent Plaza Hotel in the centre of the port megacity broke out when many guests were still asleep, with a lack of fire alarms and emergency exits leaving many trapped in their rooms.

"The hotel had no fire safety system and no fire exit to evacuate people, they had no fire alarm," Karachi mayor Waseem Akhtar told reporters at the site.

"Trapped people showed courage and made ropes of bed sheets and came out one by one, many people have been injured," hotel guest Saeed ur Rehman, himself wounded in the fire, told AFP.

Guests were left helpless, he said, for hours. Police have said it took up to three hours to bring the fire under control.

"At least 12 people had been killed in the fire incident," doctor Kaleem Shaikh of Karachi's Jinnah hospital told AFP.

He said around 70 wounded people had been discharged from hospital after treatment as their condition was stable.

At least two Pakistani international cricketers were among the guests, one-dayers Sohaib Maqsood and Hammad Azam, though they were not believed to be seriously injured.

Earlier Semi Jamali, a doctor at the same hospital, told AFP the facility had received 11 bodies and 75 wounded.

Many of the victims had suffered from smoke inhalation or suffocated, Jamali said, but others sustained cuts or fractures as they leapt to safety from the eight-storey hotel's upper floors.

Police Senior Superintendent Saqib Memon confirmed the death toll and said the cause of the fire was unclear, with an investigation launched.

"Many people we interviewed told us that they did not hear any fire alarm," a police investigator told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Building fires in Pakistan are often caused by faulty wiring or electrical short-circuits.