Dubai fire that killed 16: Residents wait to return home as authorities seal building

Civil defence say the tragedy was caused by a lack of compliance with safety regulations


SM Ayaz Zakir

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Photo by SM Ayaz Zakir
Photo by SM Ayaz Zakir

Published: Sun 16 Apr 2023, 7:42 AM

Last updated: Sun 16 Apr 2023, 10:30 PM

The time is 1am on Sunday, April 16. Nearly 12 hours have passed after a massive fire in an apartment in Dubai's Al Ras left 16 dead and nine injured. All that remains of the tragedy is the blackened exterior of a fourth-floor apartment

Authorities have sealed the building for safety reasons. The tenants - both bachelors and families - that survived the blaze have become homeless overnight.

“We are out on streets since we were evacuated at 3pm,” said a tenant of the ill-fated building.

When Khaleej Times visited Al Ras past midnight, the tenants were seen on the road waiting to return home, sipping on a cup of tea, talking to each other, or reading the Holy Qur'an as they awaited any news related to their apartments.

The Dubai Civil Defence confirmed that the fire broke out on Saturday afternoon.

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... probably the condenser of the AC blast. In no time, the fire spread, and we could see plumes of smoke billowing out,” said an eyewitness.

Residents' ordeal

During the month of Ramadan, residents of the building have developed the habit of sleeping after Fajr prayers and starting their daily routine after 1pm. On the day of the tragedy, however, it was not their alarms, but a loud bang that woke them up. “My roommate, who was on his mobile, sensed a foul burning smell and started waking us. But in just a minute, we heard a bang. Smoke started entering our room, and we were clueless about our next step,” said one tenant. "We rushed to the balcony and started calling out for help, and we noticed hundreds of people on the streets."

Two watchmen who were assigned to the building tried to rescue tenants.

“As the fire engulfed the flats, the siren in the building was activated. Security guards, along with a resident, rushed to the fourth floor. Visibility was almost nil due to smoke, but they made their watchmen are alive.

Soon, the fire engines rushed to the spot to douse the fire. The Dubai Civil Defence Operations Room was first notified about the fire at 12.35pm. A team reached the site within six minutes and began evacuation and firefighting operations. Teams from the Port Saeed and Hamriyah fire stations provided backup to the operations.

"Tenants of the first, second, and third floors escaped by the stairs or slid by a rope tied to the grills of their balconies. People residing on the fourth floor were unable to as the corridors were filled with smoke,” said one neighbour.

The fire was controlled at 2.42pm, after which the cooling operations started. At around 3pm, the civil defense team safely rescued the occupants on the third floor by cranes.

Building sealed

The authorities have sealed the flats and commercial outlets in the building, and they have been advised to stay elsewhere until further notice. “We are told that we will be allowed to enter our homes on Sunday,” said an occupant.

Lack of compliance

According to the Civil Defence, preliminary investigations showed that a lack of compliance with building security and safety requirements caused the fire. Relevant authorities are conducting a comprehensive investigation to provide a detailed report on the causes of the accident.


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