Towering inferno in Sharjah

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Towering inferno in Sharjah

When the fire alarm rang uncontrollably at 2.20am on Saturday, Owais thought it routine, shifted uneasily in his bed and hoped it would go off.

By Allan Jacob And Afkar Abdullah

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Published: Sun 29 Apr 2012, 8:47 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 12:59 PM

Minutes passed, but the ring rent his ears and he rushed to the balcony of his 31st storey apartment where his sister joined him. “We could see the flames and figured something was wrong.”

He could see a crowd gather on the road near Al Nahda Park and the shuffle of feet outside his door confirmed his fears. Al Tayer Tower was indeed on fire and the family dare not tarry another minute in their home.

They grabbed whatever they could take with them and rushed outside to join the rush down the stairs. There was commotion and smoke all around, Owais recalls.

Down 31 floors they went, followed by six floors of parking. Luckily, he had the keys to his car and managed to ride out the nightmare in the nick of time.

Police said there were no casualties, and all families of the 40-storey high tower were safely evacuated. Some 45 cars were damaged in the fire.

Brigadier Abdullah Al Suwaidi, Director of the Sharjah Civil Defence, said the fire started on the first residential floor and quickly spread to the other floors.

“As soon as we were notified, we immediately rushed to the building and evacuated its tenants. The fire began at the back (façade) of the building and firefighters from all emirates helped in extinguishing the flames. They also ensured the fire did not spread to the neighbouring buildings,” he said.

He said the fire was completely controlled by around 5.30am and the cooling process continued till around 7am. The Sharjah Civil Defence and police are investigating the cause of the blaze. Officials saw similarities to the fire which broke out at Al Baker Tower three months ago, which a recent probe said was caused by a lighted cigarette butt. Brigadier Al Suwaidi said laboratory tests would soon reveal the cause of the inferno at Al Tayer tower.

The block has six floors of parking and 34 residential floors. Some 2,000 people live in 408 flats, according to sources. Police, however, could not confirm the number.

Another resident, who did not wish to be named, said firefighters took 30 minutes to reach the building. “I lost everything, belonging, savings, everything,” he said, trying hard to stay composed.

“One side of the building was turned charcoal in colour. The firefighting teams battled for control, but the blaze was raging inside,” he said. “I will know the extent of my losses only when I’m allowed to return home.”

When it was over, families were thrown on the streets, lives were shaken, savings gone and a bleak future awaited the stricken residents.

“I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but all that I have worked for has been burnt to ash,” said another resident who preferred to use his initials R.S.

Meanwhile, Al Nahda Park has been turned into a temporary shelter for the families, who have no relatives or friends to take them in.

A tent has been erected in the park and authorities and charitable institutions are providing the residents with food and water.

The heat was too much to bear for some families, especially those with kids, who were heard wailing. Some wanted to be left alone, while others pondered their future sullenly.

“We hope to find some kind of shelter to rest our heads tonight. It’s hard for women and children,” said a displaced resident. Two nights in a row in the open is too much to bear, she said.,

Fire at tower in Al Nahda. Photo by Hassan Modan, KT Reader

Fire breaks out at Al Tayer Tower in Al Nahda, Sharjah. - KT Photo by M. Sajjad

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