‘Hard to find Eid spirit’: Sharjah tower fire victims lament losing ‘everything’ in deadly inferno

The most heavily impacted block of the tower, Block B, remains cordoned off by authorities

by

SM Ayaz Zakir

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File photo used for illustrative purposes only
File photo used for illustrative purposes only

Published: Sat 6 Apr 2024, 4:50 PM

Last updated: Sun 7 Apr 2024, 4:39 PM

"It's hard to find the spirit of Eid," said a resident of the Sharjah tower that caught fire on Thursday. "The festival is supposed to be a time of celebration and joy, but for us, it's a reminder of everything we have lost," Yusuf Babyo, the Nigerain expat added.

After the devastating fire that engulfed the high-rise building in Al Nahda on April 4, residents who were displaced by the blaze have been grappling with challenges. Their belongings left behind in charred apartments, many without basic necessities are relying on the generosity of their friends for support.


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Away from their homes and stripped of their belongings, most residents will not be celebrating Eid Al Fitr with fervour.


Extensive damage to homes in Block B

The most heavily impacted block of the tower, Block B, remains cordoned off by authorities. Displaced residents of the tower have said that they do not know when they will be allowed to re-enter their homes because of the extensive damage.

“We are seeking shelter elsewhere in some hotels or a few have moved to their friend's apartment temporarily. We are facing a lot of hardship as we have lost most of our possessions,” said Layla Osogo, a Kenyan, resident of the tenth floor of the B block.

"My family ran to safety after hearing screams of people during the fire. Later, we couldn't go back home because of the extensive damage. I believe I have lost everything in the disaster – clothes, furniture, documents,” said Osogo adding that she is thankful to her friends for helping her family through this difficult time.

Cameroonian expat Mbarga recalled the harrowing experience of evacuating the building amidst the chaos of the fire. “It was a nightmare. We barely made it out with our lives,” said Mbarga.

“Now, we are left with nothing. I heard that the fire did not reach the 15th floor, where my apartment is. Hopefully, my documents and possessions are intact. But I'm grateful for the support of my friends who have opened their doors to us,” added Mbarga.

“I have heard from my fellow tenants that many of those hospitalised are residents of floors above the 18th level from B block,” said Mbarga.

For Patricia (name changed), a Congolese expat, the fire has not only resulted in material loss but also emotional distress. “I can't stop thinking about what happened. Everything happened so fast. I am an artist, and I have hundreds of my paintings, crafts, and creative pieces that are stored in my flat. Those are very dear to me as I invested a lot of time in creating those,” said the Congolese expat.

“I am currently staying at a nearby hotel and my flatmate was hospitalised due to suffocation out of smoke. Now, she is fine and possibly will be discharged today,” said the Congolese.

Block C residents return

Residents of Block C in the tower have been granted access to return to their homes. On entering their apartments, they saw the extent of the destruction caused by the ravaging fire.

Walls, curtains, furniture, and interiors were covered in black soot as thick smoke had infiltrated their living spaces.

Niko, a resident of the 26th floor of Block C, described the reality as he surveyed his home. “It's heartbreaking to see everything covered in black. Our furniture, curtains, clothes – none of it is usable any more. We are left with the daunting task of cleaning or replacing everything,” said Niko.

"We don’t know where to even start. Each item requires thorough cleaning. This process of rebuilding our lives will be very difficult. We are grateful to be back, but the road to normalcy feels long," said Niko.

Residents are not only facing the emotional toll of the aftermath of fire but also the financial burden of restoration. For many, the cost exceeds Dh5,000 as they grapple with the extensive damage caused by the smoke. Felix, a resident of Block C, expressed that the financial strain will drain his savings.

“It's not just about cleaning up any more. The expenses to replace or repair everything are surpassing what I could have imagined. From ruined furniture to smoke-damaged electronics, the amount of repairs and replacements continues to increase as I explore my apartment more and more post-disaster,” said Felix.

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