UAE | Emergencies

Sharjah tower fire displaces hundreds

Safety concerns force authorities to shutter damaged building in Sharjah

  • By Janice Ponce de Leon and Mariam M. Al Serkal
  • Published: 00:00 April 29, 2012
  • Gulf News

Residents of the building await news about their homes in Al Nahda Park
  • Image Credit: Francois Nel/Gulf News
  • Residents of the building await news about their homes in Al Nahda Park yesterday.
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Sharjah: Hundreds of families were displaced after a massive fire broke out in a high rise residential tower near Al Nahda Park early on Saturday morning.

Authorities on Saturday closed down the 40-storey Al Tayer Tower, which has 408 residential flats and a six-level parking, for safety purposes, forcing families to stay at the nearby park while some sought shelter in hotels. Some went to houses of friends or relatives.

Brigadier Abdullah Saeed Al Suwaidi, Director-General of Sharjah Civil Defence Department, said the fire started on the first floor and rapidly spread to the higher floors.

The fire broke out at 2:25am, he said.

"As soon we were notified we immediately rushed to the building and [evacuated] its tenants. The fire erupted at one side of the back of the building. Firefighters from all emirates contributed in the extinguishing process. We cordoned off the neighbouring buildings to ensure that the fire would not spread," said Al Suwaidi.

Flammable materials

Brigadier Abdullah Mubarak Al Dukhan, Deputy Chief of Sharjah Police, who personally supervised the operation, said that the construction materials used for the building's facade were made of flammable materials that caused the fire to spread.

The building management could not be reached for comment at press time.

The building security told Gulf News that they were prohibited from speaking to the media. No injuries or casualties were reported.

A total of 102 flats were damaged by the fire.

Saima Nadeema, who lives in flat 608 with her family, said they lost everything in the fire. "We just came out like this. [All] of our property including our documents, passports, ATM cards, car registration, national ID —everything is gone," Saima told Gulf News.

"We were sleeping ... when we heard the fire alarm. We didn't notice the fire, but we could already see smoke coming in. We started choking so I went to the balcony to check. The balcony on the fourth floor was already on fire. We live on the 6th floor," she said.

Saima said she immediately grabbed her four-year-old daughter and led her family of five, including her parents, down the staircase to escape from the burning building.

"Some of the floors were dark. Some people were crying because some of their family members were missing. There was chaos and everybody was shouting, some were crying," she said. "It was really terrible. I've never felt like this before."

Tenants complained that it took the authorities some time to actually start extinguishing the fire.

"It took a lot of time for the authorities to act. When we came down, the fourth floor was already on fire. In half an hour, the whole building was in flames. Even the cars below the building caught fire," Saima said. "We called the civil defence at around 2.30am; they arrived 30 minutes later and began dousing the fire an hour later," a tenant, who requested not to be named, said.

"The small fire trucks responded right away. They were there, but they were not putting out the fire. By the time the big fire trucks came, the area was already blocked and crowded. They could not get into the side of the building where the fire was right away. By 3am, the fire was already halfway through the building," a tenant on the second floor said.

The fire was extinguished by 5:30am while the cooling process took several hours. A total of 45 vehicles belonging to residents were also destroyed in the fire.

Sharjah Charity and UAE Red Crescent were on the scene to record the names of the affected families. Three tents have been put up for the families' temporary shelter. Food was also distributed in the afternoon. They also provided hotel vouchers for three nights' stay in a hotel.

The main cause of the fire remains unknown but the incident is similar to the one at Al Baker Tower.

Timeline – Major Fires in Sharjah
  • 25 January 2012: Around 125 families were left homeless after a massive fire gutted the 25-storey Al Baker Tower 4 in Sharjah’s Al Taawun area. Fortunately, there were no casualties.

 

  • 30 November 2011: Several shops were gutted when fire erupted at the Al Ghuwair market in the Rolla area, Sharjah. No one was injured in the incident, but the damage is expected to be very high as the contents of many of these shops are completely burnt.

 

  • 08 November 2011: A massive fire broke out at a 33-storey tower in Al Nahda area in Shrajah that left 6 people injured. The owner told Gulf News that 18 apartments were completely gutted after the fire, and that 150 families had to be evacuated from the building.

 

  • 01 November 2011: A fire broke out at several warehouses at Sharjah Airport International Free Zone that contained cardboard materials and paper.

 

  • 06 June 2011: A thick blanket of black smoke engulf the skies of Sharjah after fire ravaged five warehouses. The damaged warehouses belonged to a sanitarywares and plumbing company.

 

  • 21 May 2011: More than 10 shops and 15 vehicles were gutted in the early hours of the morning due to a gas cylinder explosion. The incident happened at a cafeteria that sells shawarma in Juma’a Al Mutawa building on Al Wahda Street,Sharjah.

 

  • 02 April 2011: Fire broke out at a petrochemical company in Sharjah Free Zone.

 

  • 24 March 2011: A massive fire broke out in Sharjah Industrial Area 12.

 

  • 08 March 2011: Fire gutted an apartment on Al Wahda Street, Sharjah, believed to have been caused by an electric short circuit.

 

  • 9 January 2011: A massive fire broke out that gutted four warehouses storing electric cables and kitchen equipment in Sharjah Industrial Area 6.

 

  • 7 November 2010: A massive fire broke out gutting five warehouses and a plastics factory in Sharjah Industrial Area 1.

 

  • 06 July 2010: A fire broke out in a 14-storey building in Bu Tinah area, Sharjah spreading panic among residents.

 

  • 11 May 2010: A large fire in Sharjah broke out at the National Paints factory warehouse which gutted four of the factory's warehouse.

 

  • 03 May 2010: A large fire gutted a used tyre warehouse in Industrial Area 5, Sharjah. No injuries or fatalities were reported.

 

  • 29 April 2010: A large fire erupted at a warehouse containing plastic materials in Industrial Area 6, Sharjah. The fire was put out within half an hour and did not cause any injuries.

 

  • 16 April 2010: A massive fire broke out in Industrial Area 17, near National Paints, Sharjah, gutted eight warehouses that contained tyres and perfumes.

 

  • 08 April 2010: A large fire gutted three company premises and also spread to residential building in Industrial area 6 in Sharjah.

 

  • 08 March 2010: A huge fire broke out in Industrial Area 13, Sharjah, destroying two warehouses and affecting 24 others.

Comments (43)

  1. Added 19:04 April 29, 2012

    The tragic fire incident of Sharjah tower in A lNahda area was sad and painful to read.Sharjah witnessed many fire accidents in residential buildings earlier and this incidents are continuing was more painfulIn spite of the frequent inspections from the fire authorities.Govt should implement stern measures to eradicate this menace. K.Ragavan. Chennai 47 India

    K.Ragavan, chennai, India

  2. Added 18:44 April 29, 2012

    We are staying in Al Nahda, Shj, several times we complained to the building maintenance to repair the lock of balcony, they are least bothered, after several incidents and warnings from authorities as well. I hope the Shj municipality should bring more effective rules to protect the residents and ensure their safety. Prevention is better than cure.

    Mohammed, Sharjah , United Arab Emirates

  3. Added 16:59 April 29, 2012

    Most of the high rise buildings in sharjah lack sufficient security measures. No fire alarms working, no access of communciation to the security people in the building, emergency exits and steps are filled with garbage and so on. The building whcih i stay in sharjah had 4 fire break out in a period of 13 months. Even we had a fire yesterday. People start leaving the flats for fear of this. Construction of kitchen and the provision kept for stove cause 70% of the fire. Kitchen cabinet is places 2 or 2.5 feet above the stove and people who are in a hurry leave the stove on and enage in some other works will soon find the kitchen on fire. its hightime the authorities opened their eyes to this cause, as such issues are very rare in Dubai.

    Baiju Murathankal, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  4. Added 16:30 April 29, 2012

    It is highly sad and shocking to know that one more major fire accident happened in Sharjah.The same area is witnessing this accident is highly questionable whether people are like this or other problems present here. Please switch off power switches when not in use.Take care of children when there is risk involved in your house.Awareness and strict measures need to be taken by sharjah police and authorities before major historical event happens in the peaceful land of UAE.

    Krishnan, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

  5. Added 16:06 April 29, 2012

    Smoking, shesha and barbeque in the balcony should be completely banned and building owneres should take written gurantee from tenants for this or let them face jail if they violate this. Sharjah Municipality should also make this part of the tenancy contract. Rules , punishments and grace of god will only save the mankind.

    Saqeer SV, Dubai., United Arab Emirates

  6. Added 15:55 April 29, 2012

    My sister lives in Al Nahda area in one of the Tiger buildings. She has noticed that some tenant from the upper floor is throwing cigeratte butts on to their balcony. Just because of some irresponsible people like this, so many have to suffer. There should be a law against this kind of behaviour. I really hope my sister will move to dubai.

    Leena, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

  7. Added 14:36 April 29, 2012

    The Govt of Shj should take legal step in controlling this fires , where as the heat is just going to start summer is on the door and where as after these types of insident we will have to hear there is shortage of electricity and no power supply . What is going on ......

    SAYED ABDULLA , AJMAN, United Arab Emirates

  8. Added 14:35 April 29, 2012

    I live two bldg away for the flats which got burnt on the 28th. I am scared to dry my laundry out in the balcony as there are some RESIDENCY LIVING MY MY BLDG WHO THROW HAVE LIT CIGARETTE OUT OF THEIR BALCONY , WHICH FALLS INTO MY BALCONY ON THE LAUNDRY DRYING OUT, CATCHING FIRE TO THE CLOTHES..........IF THIS HAPPENS DURING THE DAY, WE ARE AROUND TO TAKE CARE OF IT, BUT IF IT HAPPENS DURING THE NIGHT, IT WILL BE THE CAUSE OF BLDG FIRE....MY HUMBLE REQUEST THE THE AUTHORITIES AND THE BLDG ADMIN TO SEND WARNING TO PEOPLE NOT THE SMOKE IN THE BALCONY AND THROW THE STUFF OUR....PLEASE PEOPLE DO NOT DO THIS THAT BECAUSE OF IT THAT OTHERS SUFFER

    Reshma , Sharjah/Al Nadha, India

  9. Added 14:28 April 29, 2012

    The Engineering Consultant and the Civil Contractor who built those matchstick buildings should be held responsible and prosecuted for 'CRIMINAL NEGLIGENCE'. How else to describe the use of flammable materials in the construction of a residential highrise? How did municipality inspectors approve such construction materials? Any materials with fire specs less than BS476 part 6/7 Class-1 should never be used in a residential building facade. Any contractor or supplier who cheats with material specs should be run out of business and thrown in jail indefinitely.

    Frank Turner, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

  10. Added 14:22 April 29, 2012

    I have a friend staying in this building who lost all his belongings in this fire. The external ALUBOND cladding material used on this towers is of sub standard quality although it is claimed to be manufactured in USA. The consultant and the contractors should be held responsible for allowing such sub standard materials to be used on high rise buildings and for putting human lives at risk. There are good quality cladding materials which are with fire retardant core available and which will not allow the flames to spread fast. Using this type of material wil drastically reduce the risk of flame spread especially on high rise buildings. I hope the authorities take note of this and do the needful.l

    Rajesh, Naik, United Arab Emirates

  11. View more comments

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