Police say banned cladding caused Sharjah blaze to spread rapidly
Municipality has ordered the owners of all old buildings with aluminum façade to replace it.
The 49-storey Sharjah building that was gutted in a blaze on Tuesday night was covered with the banned 'aluminum composite cladding' - causing the fire to spread throughout the tower in minutes, authorities have found.
Brig Ahmed Al Serkal, acting director of operation room and director-general of forensic department at Sharjah Police, said their initial probe of the Al Nahda fire revealed that this highly flammable cladding was used in the facade of the Abbco Tower. Investigations on the cause of the blaze are ongoing.
Also see: A day later after the UAE tower fire
Aluminum composite cladding - widely used to cover a building's exteriors - has been banned in Sharjah since 2017, after it was found to be a primary factor in massive fires in 2015, 2016, and 2017, Brig Al Serkal said.
Such cladding issues were also detected in the fire incidents at The Address Downtown and The Torch in Dubai Marina.
Though the Abbco Tower was built before the cladding ban, its owner had already been ordered to remove the aluminum panels from its facade.
"The municipality has issued rules and ordered the owners of all the old buildings with aluminum façade to replace it. Otherwise, they will have to pay hefty fines," a top official from the Sharjah Municipality told Khaleej Times.
Buildings in Sharjah with a height of more than 23 metres - equivalent to seven floors - should not have aluminum cladding, according to the rules issued by the municipality.
"Using the flammable aluminum cladding in the facades of buildings causes fires to spread a lot faster," he added
The official said they have conducted a comprehensive survey of existing buildings with aluminum facades across the city. Owners were given a grace period to change the exteriors and replace the material, he added.
The municipality has extended support to help building owners facilitate the cladding replacements. However, some have failed to follow the procedures.
Inspections of buildings, especially those found with aluminum cladding, shall be ramped up, he said.
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