Friday, July 16, 2010

Massive fire guts Sharjah residential building

The Gulf Today, 7 July 2010

A huge amount of smoke engulfed the Sharjah sky on Tuesday evening after a massive fire broke out at a residential building located at Al Buteena area on Al Arooba street in Rolla.
Sharjah Police was notified about the inferno in the 15-storey Kuwaiti Tower at around 6.05pm. The fire initially started on the first and second floors and completely gutted them before spreading to all the higher floors of the building.
Col. Wahid Al Serkal, Director of Sharjah Civil Defence, said that the main cause of the fire is not known yet, but it could have resulted from a gas cylinder explosion that triggered other gas cylinder explosions in the building.
“The top floors of the building were completely gutted. The fire did not spread to the mezzanine and ground floors,” he noted. “Debris was spreading all over the air and fire sparks were being thrown into the air from the burning building.”
“Six people residing at the building, who suffered from inhalation problems after the fire broke out, were admitted to the hospital,” he added.
“The outer facade of the building is made of fiber glass, which caused the fire to spread rapidly.”
According to the fire dousing team members, the fire spread quickly as the exterior of the building was paneled with fibre glass. The residential building was severely damaged in a major fire. Additionally, the building is surrounded by open areas and winds intensified the fire quickly.
Thousands of people gathered in the vicinity. Police cordoned off the area, and blocked most of the roads in the locale.
Col. Mohamed Eid Al Mazloum, Director of the Sharjah Police Operations Department, said that as soon as they were notified about the accident, they cordoned off the area.
“We worked hard to ensure the fire does not spread to neighbouring areas full of other residential buildings,” he noted. “Fire brigades from Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ajman and Umm Al Quwain contributed in controlling the blaze and road users were asked to use alternative routes.”
Hydraulic machines and water pumps were used to control the blaze that continued till night.
“We have a mobile operation car connected to the operations room that helped us to control all the operations on the roads. Helicopters were also used to supply additional water to control the flames,” he added.
“Twenty-five fire engines and equipment were used to control the fire that continuted till later hours and explosions were rapidly heard.
The residents were evacuated from the building using the staircase and we have transferred a man and a woman to Al Kuwait hospital as they fell unconscious and suffered from breathing problems.”
Shabeeba, a resident living on the ninth floor of the building, said that her family heard the noise of the smoke detector at around 5 o clock when they were sleeping.
Immediately they vacated their house and ran out the building, taking the stairs.
In the beginning, they were still not aware of whether the fire was in their building or in the next one, as the smoke had come in from the front side of the building. She said that she moved to her cousin’s house as they were not able to go back home.
Sumesh KS, who lives in the neighbouring area, said that he saw four people being brought down by a crane. He said that the fire started at 4.30pm and that he saw two floors of the building catching fire initially.
According to officials, an injured person was taken down immediately after the fire by the police and civil defence from the balcony of the ninth floor. At 7 pm, another lady was taken down from her balcony by a crane in a fatigued condition after she had been exposed to the smoke.
According to another eyewitness, Aisha, “massive amounts of smoke rose to the sky and looked like a terrorist attack incident.”
The building has 72 flats in all, which were mainly inhabited by South Indians. The building was old, which is another speculated reason for the fire.
(With more inputs by Lina Abdul Rahman, Image Credit: Nisham A. Manaf)

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