Abu Dhabi: Tenants huddled yesterday around their charred nine-story building which caughtfire on Tuesdat to mourn the loss of three lives claimed by the blaze.
The three victims who succumbed to the flames were all from Pakistan, and their friends and relatives told Gulf News that families had not yet been informed about the tragedy.
“I don’t know yet how to inform my elder brother’s wives and children about this sad incident. I, myself, am still under shock. He was more like a father to me and I will greatly miss his advice and affection,” said Dalboor Khan, 24, a construction worker from Pakistan.
Khan’s older brother, Mubarak Walid Ali Khan, was one of the victims of the fire. He used to collect scrap materials for sale and is survived by two wives, three sons and a daughter who resides in Waziristan, a region located in northwestern Pakistan.
Police yesterday (Tuesday) received reports of the fire in the nine-storey building on Airport Road which broke out at about 4:20pm. The flames that emerged from an apartment on the third storey were extinguished within minutes, but they had already spread to two nearby apartments.
Apart from the three fatalities, eight other tenants sustained moderate injuries.
The building itself is an older structure that houses a furniture store, a men’s barber shop and a beauty training centre. It is predominantly occupied by low-income workers from the subcontinent and tenants reported that most rooms accommodate an average of six people. However, Abu Dhabi tenancy regulations stipulate that a maximum of three people can share a room.
M.S., a driver who lived in an apartment on the first floor, said a similar fire had broken out in the building’s electrical room about two years ago.
“We have been concerned about the safety of our accommodation, but the rents are really not affordable elsewhere in the capital,” said another tenant, M.R., who lives on the fourth floor and also works at one of the stores in the building We were paying Dh250 per month to share the room with six other men.
Khan said his brother had come to the UAE about 15 years ago.
“He never complained and tried hard to help his friends and family lead more comfortable lives. In fact, I first came to the UAE seven years ago for a position that he helped me acquire,” he said.
The deceased had also recently brought his 18-year-old nephew, Wali Marjan Khan, to Abu Dhabi. He too passed away in Tuesday’s fire, and is survived by a young wife and child.
“The two families will be devastated because these men were their only breadwinners. I will probably only break the news to them once their repatriation is confirmed. My brother himself was a mentor to many of us, and he will be sorely missed.,” Khan said.
The last victim, Shanar Khan, was aged about 25 years. His flatmate, who declined to be named, said Shanar had come to the UAE two years ago.
“He recently purchased a ticket so he could finally go home and visit his wife and baby. Since coming to Abu Dhabi, he was unable to return home and had been collecting money for the trip. He was really excited, but unfortunately, this was not meant to happen,” the man added.
Tenants also claimed that they had been unable to reach the building’ watchman since the fire.
“Given what happened, we are looking for alternative accommodation in Mussaffah and other areas,” M.S. said.
A statement from the police said that investigation is ongoing into the cause of the fire.