UAE | Emergencies

Strong winds stoked fire in Tamweel Tower

Residents helped each other exit the burning building in Jumeirah Lakes Towers

  • By Janice Ponce de Leon, Staff Reporter
  • Published: 11:30 November 19, 2012
  • Gulf News

Evacuated residents of the Tamweel Tower
  • Image Credit: Pankaj Sharma/Gulf News
  • Evacuated residents of the Tamweel Tower in the Jumeirah Lakes Towers wait outside the building after a fire broke out in the high-rise on Sunday.
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Dubai: Authorities on Monday began an investigation into the cause of a fire that displaced hundreds of people, as news unfolded that courageous residents of Tamweel Tower calmly helped each other exit the burning building as flames engulfed the 34-floor structure on Sunday.

A spokesman for the Dubai Civil Defence said that more than 600 people were affected and that 61 hotel rooms have been booked for displaced families while cleaning of the tower is ongoing.

Strong winds reportedly fanned the massive fire that ripped though Tamweel Tower in Jumeirah Lakes Towers (JLT) at 2am on Sunday. Despite the strong fire, only minor injuries and no casualties were reported.

The residents of the tower were evacuated in an orderly manner to safety along with the residents of nearby towers Al Seef 2 and Al Seef 3.

Among those who were badly hit was Mr. Patel, an Indian expatriate, who told Gulf News that he could only sit and watch as fire engulfed the apartment which he had bought for his family two years ago.

The Patel family was sleeping when the fire alarm went off. His wife, child, mother, who has a kidney problem, and Patel had to go down 33 floors. They were only able to salvage their mobile phones and wallet.

“Our flat is totally burned. You can see the broken glass and the black soot covering it,” said Patel who lives in the flat no. 3303.

“When we reached the ground, we saw that the fire had not yet reached our flat. But wind was blowing towards the fire and somehow spread it to our flat,” he added.

A resident, who declined to be named, said that he was awake even before the fire broke out.

Flying debris

“I smelled smoke and could see a glow, like there was something burning from across us and some debris flying,” the resident said.

He said the design of the building somehow helped fuel the fire. “The design of this building is like a flower. So the overhanging parts of that flower, at the top, caught fire and fell down on the ground and on the balconies which caused the fire in other floors,” the resident said.

Some residents said they tried to douse the fire on their own, but failed.

“Our neighbour’s house was already on fire but we had no idea the upper floors were also on fire. We tried to douse the fire with buckets of water before the sprinklers finally went on,” J.B. from the UK who lives on the 12th floor told Gulf News.

“Our neighbour tried to help but he slipped and hurt his head in the process. So I picked him up, grabbed him and we evacuated the building,” he added.

“We heard a strange sound, like metal getting burned and hitting the windows,” Sheila, from the 28th floor, said. “Some of our neighbours tried to douse the fire using the fire hose and fire extinguishers but they didn’t work, so we had to go down.”

Some of the families stayed on the ground and watched as firefighters tried to douse the fire. They said it took fire fighters “a long time” to spray water onto the building.

Tough job for firefighters

Firefighters had to go to the neighbouring Al Seef Tower 2 to spray water to the adjacent Tamweel Tower.

“We want to know what security measures are in place in case there’s fire on our roof and we live on a high-rise building. We were down here from 2am to 8.30am and it took them a long time to extinguish the fire. We just had to wait and pray that everybody else was safe. We want an answer for these questions,” a resident from Al Seef 2 told Gulf News.

Hotel arrangements have been made for families displaced by the fire, according to Varun Sood, acting chief executive officer, Tamweel.

“Our staff are on site and have provided transportation and hotel accommodation, in coordination with Dubai Multi Commodities Centre [DMCC], to any resident who requires such assistance.

“We will continue to work with the Building’s Owners Association to assist all residents and we remain fully committed to ensuring their well-being,” said Sood.

Probe into fire

The fire broke out at around 1.30am and was extinguished by 8.19am. Authorities have begun investigations into the cause of the fire.

But residents suspect the fire started on the recreational area in the 34th floor where a pool, jacuzzi, gym and the air conditioning plant are located.

From the outside, parts of the building where cladding materials were used were completely charred. The glass side of the building remained intact. Residents said falling debris had sparked fire on the lower floors.

On the ground, at least six cars were damaged by the fire, including a play area near the building. Charred cladding materials could be seen scattered around.

At around 2pm on Sunday, residents of Tamweel Tower were allowed to go up and gather their belongings. But they were only allowed until the 17th floor as the 18th to 33rd floors were “too risky”, ground officials said.

Residents of Al Seef 2 and 3 were allowed to go back to their apartments at around 8am on Sunday.

Four stations responded to the scene: Al Manara, Al Karama, Satwa and Rashidiya, Civil Defence said.

Over 50 families were accommodated at Armada Towers 1 and 2 and 61 rooms were booked for displaced families at the Bonnington Hotel. Several others were asked to stay at Al Mas Tower.

Comments (10)

  1. Added 17:11 November 19, 2012

    Very happy that everyone is safe and sound. The Fire Fighters did a great job!!! Love and God bless...

    Melanie-Rose, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  2. Added 15:26 November 19, 2012

    All the high-rise buildings should be equipped with emergency evacuation chute which would ensure safe and easy evacuation of people. Also a strict conformance should be implemented on selection of cladding materials. The fire fighting system should be regularly inspected to ensure that it is in proper working condition. recently i have been to Mirdif City Center and found the main fire control panel indicating error/fault. this shows how little safety is considered. People tend for reactive method rather than a more proactive method of controll to be implemented. It would also be a good suggestion for the residential community to have fire training evacuation training and basic first aid. As fire in the initial state can be easily controlled if we are trained and have proper equipment. Also people to be more careful while using electrical appliances and more often cigarette butts thrown from the balcony are also cause of fire. Please note a little care can make a big difference. Lets learn this as a lesson. Health and Safety Professional

    Deepak H Nair, Dubai Marina, United Arab Emirates

  3. Added 15:17 November 19, 2012

    WE ALL CAN PRAY FOR THEM. ALLAH BLESS THEM ALL

    Omar, DUBAI, United Arab Emirates

  4. Added 14:31 November 19, 2012

    God bless the people who are suffering.

    sakina, dubai, United Arab Emirates

  5. Added 14:06 November 19, 2012

    Thank God everyone is safe. that's what's important. material things can be replaced, but life is more precious than any structure or building.

    wosim, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  6. Added 13:54 November 19, 2012

    If small building like these are tough for fire fighters than what about sky scrapers which are being built and which are already built? why to give permissions to build such high buildings when you don't have proper gear to help?

    wasi, dubai, United Arab Emirates

  7. Added 12:19 November 19, 2012

    Very bad unfortunate incident and god bless you everybody. I hope builder will provide all necessary items to tenants till all formalities completed by police.

    vitta suresh babu, abu dhabi, India

  8. Added 11:45 November 19, 2012

    Are we now going to see a clamp down on the use of sub-standard building materials which are not fire-rated by the authorities? The Belhasa fire in TECOM last month was practically identical with the outer cladding providing the fuel to destroy the apartments above the source of the blaze. It is unfortunate that TECOM Freezone is out with the responsibility of the authorities as probably 70 per cent of the buildings there are clad in this death trap material. The use of these types of cladding are banned throughout Europe as they do not meet minimum rating for fire resistance and the recent events of Dubai show just how dangerous this situation is.

    Ryan, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  9. Added 11:04 November 19, 2012

    The dangers of such combustible cladding have been known for a long time in engineering circles. The significant number of recent fires in regional high-rise buildings have clearly demonstrated the risk posed by such dangerous materials. Here, the dangerous materials even extended to the rooves where decorative fixtures were installed near to technical installations, which can pose their own hazards, even without nearby combustibles. It will be interesting to see who will step forward and reimburse residents for their financial loss. Video reports of this fire seem to have gone viral around the world and many will be interested is the outcome of the case. Let us hope action is taken swiftly with just decisions to help those affected families, many who perhaps have lost their life savings by buying property in this building.

    Louie Tedesco, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  10. Added 09:49 November 19, 2012

    Very sad incident. I think about the courage of people who escaped safely and feel happy for it.

    Rasheed, Abu Dhabi, Pakistan

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