'He died a hero': Brother of watchman who saved tenants in Dubai building fire grieves for kids left behind

Rafiq, who had been working in the UAE for 26 years, is survived by his wife and three children – two girls, aged 13 and 10, and a boy aged 6


Nasreen Abdulla

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

Published: Tue 18 Apr 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Tue 18 Apr 2023, 11:07 PM

“He died a hero,” said Salinga Gudu, the brother of a watchman killed in the Al Ras building fire, his voice cracking as he spoke to Khaleej Times. The 55-year-old accompanied his brother’s mortal remains to India on Monday night.

Saliyakoondu Gudu aka S Mohammed Rafiq worked in the building as a watchman along with his compatriot Imam Malik. The duo was on the ground floor when the fire broke out on the fourth floor on Saturday afternoon. According to residents, they rushed to the aid of the occupants of the building by banging on doors and alerting them to the danger.

It was on Saturday afternoon that the deadly blaze broke out in a building behind Latifa Mosque killing 16 people and injuring nine.

“I want everyone to remember him in their prayers,” said Salinga. “He died a hero. I wish God had taken me instead. He had three young children to take care of but now there is nothing that can be done. Please pray for my brother.”

Rafiq, who had been working in the UAE for 26 years, is survived by his wife and three children – two girls, aged 13 and 10, and a boy aged 6. According to his brother, he earned a salary of Dh1,500 and had not even managed to build a house for his family.

Meanwhile, Imam Malik is survived by his wife and three children, the youngest of whom is just 3 months old. “He came to Dubai only three years ago to earn a better living for his family,” said Salinga.

Compensation given

On Sunday, the Tamil Nadu government announced Rs1 million (Dh45,000) each as compensation for the kin of two men. Salinga expressed gratitude for the monetary reward and said they would prove a welcome relief for the families.

“Imam was the sole breadwinner for a family of five,” he said. “He had an unwell sister in addition to his wife and children. I am sure the money will be of great help to them.”

Salinga stressed that he hoped the government would deposit the money in the name of the children of the deceased men. “If the money is deposited in the name of the children, they would be able to use it for their education and necessary expenses when they become older,” he said. “That would secure their future and ensure that they can live comfortably despite the absence of their fathers.”

Tributes pour in

Meanwhile, tributes continued to pour in for the two men who have been hailed as heroes for their actions. Eyewitnesses say their brave actions helped save many lives. The men ran from floor to floor alerting residents and asking them to get out. When they got to the fourth floor, where the fire had broken out, they were engulfed in the thick, black smoke from which they never emerged.

Preliminary investigations showed that lack of compliance with building security and safety requirements caused the fire, according to a Dubai Civil Defence spokesperson. “Relevant authorities are conducting a comprehensive investigation to provide a detailed a report on the causes of the accident,” he said.


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