Lucky escape, but all may be lost

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Lucky escape, but all may be lost

DUBAI - Shocking details about Sunday morning’s fire at Tamweel Tower emerged from residents as they saw the fiery drama unfold through the night. From families seeing their curtains burn to little pets being left unattended in the building, the scale of devastation came to fore only on Monday as residents were allowed into the building.


Muaz Shabandri

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Published: Tue 20 Nov 2012, 12:21 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 1:28 PM

Though families on the lower floors were the first to be allowed in to get their belongings, families on the upper floors were not allowed in until the late hours on Monday.

Deborah Stead who lived on the 32nd floor of the building had little hope of anything being left behind.

“We don’t have clothes, passports, mobile phones, shoes. Everything is left behind and we really hope there is something left behind when we go back to our house.”

Her flat was on the three worst-affected floors of the building. Deborah’s family was sleeping when the fire started. A crackling sound woke her husband who saw a flames on the higher floors.

“My husband pulled the hose and tried to turn it on but there was no water in the hose. We just wanted to leave the hose running just in case the fire reached our door,” said Deborah.

A full day after the fire was brought under control at the Tamweel Tower, residents were still waiting to know what was left of their houses. Shattered windows, charred balconies and black walls were all that could be seen on the upper floors as families with children and pets waited outside the Seef Tower on Monday morning.

Each resident had his or her own story to share. Manuel, a resident on the building’s 32nd floor was woken up by his friend who decided to evacuate after seeing a reflection of the fire in the opposite building. They were hoping their pet cat was alive as it went into hiding while the building was being evacuated.

Another resident, Thomas Samuel, who lived on the building’s 13th floor could see the curtains of his flat on fire.

“I stood at a point where I could safely see my flat. I could see the curtains in my house had caught fire and the glass had exploded,” said Thomas.

His family was allowed back into the building at 4pm on Monday as the fire had left behind only minor damages.

“We have taken some of our belongings from the flat and returned to our hotel. We are not yet sure when we will be able to come back as the clean-up is still underway.”

Another resident on the building’s 28th floor was waiting through the day as he was yet to be allowed to his apartment.

Residents on the top floors were worst affected as the swimming pool, gymnasium and play area were completely wiped out because of the fire.

The Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC), the master developer of the Jumeirah Lakes Towers (JLT), commended the professionalism and efforts of emergency services.

However, distressed residents were not as happy as the developer. Many questioned the alleged failure of fire hoses and fire sprinklers as the fire raged for over six hours leaving a trail of destruction.

An eye-witness who did not wish to be named said, “The entrance to JLT is a major problem during any emergency. From an emergency point of view, it is crucial to make a few changes to the road network.”

“Any building which has more than 20 floors seems to be a potential hazard for residents as the right solution could not be implemented in the right time. We lost 15 storeys. What would have happened if the fire started in the middle of the building? How would the people evacuate? I am really concerned,” said Fadi.

Shortly after the fire broke out, displaced residents were offered shelter in Almas Tower. DMCC also helped facilitate the arrangement of hotel accommodation for all affected Tamweel Tower residents.

Residents in the Al Seef Towers were quick to come to the help of their neighbours as they served juices, tea, coffee and snacks to the people affected by the fire.

A team of eight volunteers from the Al Seef Ladies Club set up a makeshift arrangement to serve refreshments from the area outside their building.

Like every high-rise fire, the building cladding could not hold onto the building as the intense fire exposed the walls of an entire section of the building. A few of the residents blamed the flammable cladding as one even went on to say, “It was just like lighting up a cigarette. The chunks kept falling off and there was very little that could be done to prevent the fire from spreading.”

Sunday’s major fire has raised several concerns from a safety point of view. It is now left to the authorities to make investigations and address the issues as yet another high-rise tower has put the limelight on aerial firefighting and the need to implement it quickly. With 600 people evacuated safely from the building, it was a lucky escape for the residents of Tamweel Tower who now hope to get back to their normal life in the months ahead.

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