Second major fire in Sharjah National Paints

Afkar Abdulla
Filed on May 12, 2010
Second major fire in Sharjah National Paints

A massive fire destroyed a factory and four warehouses of National Paints in the morning and threw traffic out of gear for most of the day on Tuesday.

Containers exploded one after another, spewing columns of fire and smoke up as over 250 firefighters from across the country battled this year’s biggest blaze in the country that started around 9am. Helicopters were also pressed into service to put out the billowing fire.

Though the major operations were over by evening, fire was still smouldering as this report went to the press and Civil Defence officials expressed the hope that they would be able to completely control it by today morning.

The arterial Emirates Road was among the three roads closed, forcing motorists to other roads, which also witnessed traffic snarls.

“Firefighters from across the country are here — from Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ras Khaimah, Dubai, Al Ain and Ajman. It’s the biggest fire we have seen this year,” Col Waheed Al Serkal, Director of the Sharjah Civil Defence, said.

“A fire engine also went up in flames. A firefighter and a worker suffered minor burns and were rushed to Al Qasimi Hospital,” he added

“They have been treated and are doing well.”

This was the second major fire in National Paints — the first being in the 1990s, causing injuries to 40 people and loss to the tune of over Dh50 million.

On Tuesday, the busy stretch of the Emirates Road in front of the factory was cordoned off. More than 20 residential and business buildings in the area were evacuated, while more than 100 workers from the National Paints’ accommodations were moved out. Many workshops, warehouses and offices in the area remained closed throughout the day.

Anjad, Sharjah Police’s patrol unit, also moved a mobile hospital to the area to treat people who suffered smoke inhalation.

Humaid Al Hadidi, Director-General of Sharjah Police, said fire experts were already on the scene. “We have set up a committee to investigate the fire. The committee includes fire experts, police officers and officials of the Ministry of Interior from Abu Dhabi,” he said.

“In a few days, they would prepare a report on the causes and recommendations on how similar incidents can be avoided in the future.”

Col. Ahmed bin Darwish, Head of Anjad, said the Emirates Road, Industrial Area 4 road and Industrial Area 3 road, known as Maliha road, were closed.

He said they deployed up to 20 patrols to control traffic and direct motorists to alternative roads.

However, the closure of Emirates Road caused traffic chaos with many employees reporting late for work as they struggled to find alternative routes.

This was the second major fire in National Paints, said a Top official at Sharjah Police. The first one occurred in 1990s, which was one of the biggest fires in the history of the country as 40 people were injured. The loss in that fire was estimated to be more than Dh50 million.

Eyewitnesses say

“I work in a company just behind National Paints. It all started at 9am. Explosions were heard repeatedly and massive flames were seen. Burning objects were flying like missiles,” said Sanjay Shukla.

“The sun was completely shadowed and it seemed like evening or a solar eclipse. The air was thick with smell of burning chemicals and smoke, making it difficult to breathe. I, like many others, developed headache.”

Srushti, a resident of Dubai who works in DPS Sharjah, wrote to Khaleej Times website, “I was in the school and I saw the fire break out at 9am. It was like a blast and then it was burning terribly. There was a lot of smoke and the sky above our school was black..! It was a terrible accident.”

17th fire in Sharjah this year

A Top official at the Sharjah Civil Defence said despite the intensified inspections being carried out by the Emergency Inspection Committee to ensure that the companies are abiding by the rules, fires have increased in the emirate this year.

This year witnessed more than 17 moderate and major fires while only four such incidents were reported last year.

Though there were no major casualties, loss of property has been estimated to be more than Dh100 million this year.

Most of this year’s fires occurred in warehouses in industrial areas and Al Sajja, in addition to one incident in Mega Mall.

A forensic technician of Sharjah Police said the forensic investigations showed that most of them were caused by negligence of people like throwing lighted matchsticks and cigarettes, exposed electric cables and improper storage of inflammable materials.

Col Wahid Al Serkal, Director-General of Sharjah Civil Defence, said, “I don’t suspect that the fires are being engineered by organised gangs, but individuals who might have been hired to do so. Or someone suffering from mental problems could start a fire.”

He urged the public to cooperate with the police and Civil Defence to minimise the increasing number of fire accidents in the emirate.

An official at the Operations Room of the police, said although the circumstances surrounding these accidents indicate criminal intention, all of these incidents are attributed to unknown culprits.

He believes that most of these fires were “created” to claim insurance money, though some others are a result of ignorance on the part of workers about safety and protection procedures.

Omar Majzoup, director of Dubai Company for Islamic Insurance, said most of the fire accidents might be stage managed by owners with the intention of claiming the insurance money for unsold goods. “But according to our investigations, several of them happened accidentally or due to non-implementation of safety procedures,” he added.

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