Dubai: Families evacuated after building tilts due to structural damages

Some residents spent the night in their cars outside the tower, while others took shelter in hotels or the homes of relatives


Nasreen Abdulla

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Published: Sun 21 Apr 2024, 8:14 AM

Last updated: Sun 21 Apr 2024, 9:41 PM

More than 100 families living in the multistory tower in Muhaisnah 4 in Dubai have been evacuated from the premises late on Friday night (April 19) after its structure suffered damages.

At around 8:30pm, resident Nawal's young son felt an 'earthquake-like' jolt and his chair moved. "It was barely a few seconds long," she said, "I thought he was just imagining things as I didn't feel it much. About an hour later, my husband's colleague called asking if we had also felt the 'shake'. We thought it was an earthquake."

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However, a few hours later, Dubai Civil Defence officials knocked on her door and asked her to evacuate the building immediately. That's when she realised the gravity of the situation. "One side of the building had suffered damages, causing it to crack and tilt to one side slightly," she said.

"By then, my children were sleeping," said Nawal. "I quickly grabbed my important documents and a pair of clothes before waking them up and running down the stairs. The elevators had stopped working by then."

The recent torrential rains in the UAE flooded the basement of the building, according to the tenants. Although water is being pumped out, even after five days, there is still stagnant water with cars submerged in the basement.

Spending the night

Nawal and her family spent the night in their car outside the building along with the other tenants of the 108-apartment building. "While speaking to the others, I realised that the tenants on one side of the building felt the impact of the tilt more than others," she said. "One of my neighbours on the first floor even got a small cut because of the jolt."

By this time, the building owner, Civil Defence and several government authorities were on site. "They worked quickly to seal off the building and ensure it was safe," said Nawal. "We waited outside, not knowing where to go or what to do."

Another tenant who spent the night out was Lakshmi, who was at a mall when the incident happened. "We were shopping at Deira City Center when our neighbour called to tell us what had happened," said Lakshmi, who has lived in the building for more than two years. "We rushed back only to see that police had sealed the building completely," she said. "We waited outside for many hours before the police began allowing families one floor at a time to go back into the building and collect their belongings."

It was almost 6am when Lakshmi and her husband could return to their 9th-floor apartment. "We packed our documents and clothes into two suitcases and left," she said. "Fortunately, our other car was parked in Basement 1, and we were allowed to retrieve it. When I last spoke to some of my neighbours, those who had their vehicles in Basement 2 had not yet been allowed to take their cars out."

Since the rains, "Every day, they had a small motor pumping out water from the basement," said Nawal. "Even now, there is stagnant water in the lower basement, which is why some of the tenants have not been allowed to take their cars out."

Uncertain future

Nawal and her family have been moved into a hotel apartment in Qusais, and the building owner promised to reimburse the cost of the stay. Meanwhile, Lakshmi's family is taking shelter with a relative in Bur Dubai. Both are uncertain about the future.

"We have our renewal due in October," said Lakshmi. "However, now we are unsure — we don't know when the building will be deemed fit to be inhabitable again and even if it is cleared, we don't know whether we want to continue living here. Right now, we are in a state of limbo, but we will have to decide soon."

Nawal, who returned to the building late on Saturday to retrieve some more of her belongings, said several people were working around the clock on the site. "There were Civil Defence authorities, building surveyors, contractors and many other people," she said. "It did not look like the matter would be resolved quickly and easily.

"So right now, we are looking at alternative long-term arrangements. It was disturbing to go through the storm UAE faced on April 16, and now being uprooted from our homes is a shock. We are thankful that everyone is safe, but we are worried about the future."


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