Dubai fire kills 16: Deira residents still in shock

Some residents allowed back inside the building on Sunday to recover their belongings


Nasreen Abdulla


SM Ayaz Zakir

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram

Top Stories

People wait in the neighbourhood near the building where a deadly fire occurred in Al Ras. — Photo by KT reader Wajahat Hussain
People wait in the neighbourhood near the building where a deadly fire occurred in Al Ras. — Photo by KT reader Wajahat Hussain

Published: Sun 16 Apr 2023, 11:01 PM

Last updated: Mon 17 Apr 2023, 7:06 AM

Twenty-four hours after a deadly fire killed 16 people in a building in Al Ras, people living and working in that area continued to be in shock on Sunday. When Khaleej Times visited the location, the building remained cordoned off with security tapes around it and police vehicles parked nearby.

At a cafeteria in an adjacent tower, people huddled together and spoke in hushed tones while occasionally glancing up at the fourth floor of the affected building which had charred exteriors. “I still cannot believe that such a tragedy has happened,” said a passerby. “I work and live close by so I come here often. I know most of the people around the area. It is so heartbreaking.”

Electricity to the building has not been restored and all shops has been shut down. Meanwhile an eyewitness living in a nearby building confirmed that some residents were being allowed back inside the building to recover their belongings.

Many of the residents had spent the night on the sidewalk sipping tea, reading the Holy Quran and waiting to hear some updates. Several of them had escaped their homes by stairs or by sliding down ropes tied to their balconies when the fire began.

According to an employee of Talal Supermarket, located on the ground floor of the building, they had been allowed to move items from the supermarket elsewhere. “There is still no electricity in the building, and we have a lot of frozen food items that would go bad if left there,” he said. “This morning, officials allowed us into the building for a short while to move our items to a storage area.”

Loud bang

It was on Saturday afternoon that a fire ripped through the building that is located behind Latifa Masjid. The Dubai Civil Defence Operations Room was first notified about the fire at 12.35pm. A team reached the spot within six minutes and began both evacuation and firefighting operations. The fire was brought under control at 2.42pm, after which the cooling operations were started.


Neighbourhood residents said that they witnessed a ball of fire on the fourth floor, which they assume is from a faulty air conditioner. “We first noticed the fire, which was just restricted to burning of the AC. However, we heard a bang in a few minutes. In no time, the fire spread, and we could see plumes of smoke billowing out,” said an eyewitness.

Videos shared on social media showed thick black smoke and flames leaping out of an apartment window as multiple fire engines and first responders reach the area in record time.

According to a worker in a shop in the building, they heard "a loud bang". “We couldn’t figure out what was happening for a few minutes. But then we saw smoke and fire coming out of the window,” he said. The worker and a few people tried to rush into the building to help people out, but were unable to do anything because of the smoke.

Rushing to his death

Two of those who rushed upstairs to help the trapped residents were building workers identified as Saliyakoondu Gudu and Imam Kasim. The Indian men hailing from Tamil Nadu, were on the ground floor but ran to the fourth floor to try to extinguish the fire. They were caught in the thick, black smoke and never made it back out of the building. Neighbourhood residents said the building had a third watchman, who was away during the incident.

Social workers confirmed that all 16 of the deceased have been identified. “There are six Sudanese nationals, three Pakistanis, four Indians, one Cameroon national, one Jordanian and one Egyptian,” said social worker Naseer Vadanappilly. “They have been identified by their friends, relatives or colleagues. It is really a heartbreaking process.”

According to him, several officials from various ministries and consulates worked on their day off to speed up the paperwork involved. He and several other social workers have spent more than 48 hours with minimal sleep trying to sort out the formalities and get bodies repatriated.

A schoolteacher and her husband were among those who died. According to sources, teacher Jeshi Kandamangalath and her husband Rijesh Kalangadan, who had taken the day off to celebrate Vishu, died due to asphyxiation.

Investigations under way

Other eyewitnesses said that authorities and officials had visited the building several times over the last 24 hours, the latest of which was on Sunday morning. Investigations are under way into exactly what caused the incident.

Preliminary investigations showed that lack of compliance with building security and safety requirements caused the fire. According to some neighbourhood residents, the firefighting equipment in the building was outdated, even though the building had undergone some renovation in recent times.

A restaurant worker in the adjacent building claimed the firefighting equipment was outdated.

“The fire was in one end of the building, but we could see smoke billow from an open window at the other end. This means that the entire floor was covered with the thick, black smoke. The detectors and alarm did not go off until the smoke fully spread,” he said.

Tenants of the building also told Khaleej Times that they often encountered the problem of their ACs heating up. According to initial reports, a short circuit in an AC is said to have caused the fire.

More news from UAE