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Sharjah supermarket to face action for fire

Civil Defence to file lawsuit against maintenance firm, Al Manama management for neglecting safety

Image Credit: Aghaddir Ali/Gulf News
The Sharjah Civil Defence is to file a lawsuit against the maintenance company and the management of Al Manama supermarket.
Gulf News

Sharjah: The Sharjah Civil Defence is to file a lawsuit against the maintenance company and management of Al Manama supermarket for a fire that claimed two lives last Friday, Gulf News can reveal.

The fire, which broke out at 11.32pm, gutted the supermarket on the ground and first floors of the 19-storey building on Al Arouba Street in Rolla.

Colonel Sami Khamis Al Naqabi, Director-General of Sharjah Civil Defence, told Gulf News that the department will take tough action against the entities because the two parties not only failed to implement the basic safety measures, the supermarket management also failed to acquire the permission of the concerned authorities to make changes on the premises.

Following the fire, the Civil Defence team found that the maintenance company did not carry out its works because they did not receive the money from the owner as he was outside the country.

Col Al Naqabi urged all maintenance companies to first conduct a survey of the premises before signing the contract for maintenance work. Once they sign the contract, they should be responsible for making sure everything is in order on the premises, he said.

In this instance, the company signed the annual contract with the supermarket management but every few months, they submitted a new clause that included different tasks with extra fees. This showed that the company was less concerned about the safety of the workers and more interested in making money, said Col Al Naqabi.

Poor maintenance, inappropriate storage and unapproved changes are to blame for Al Manama fire, Col. Al Naqabi said. The fire alarm and the water pumps did not work and the level of water in the tanks was low, he informed.

The two workers who lost their lives were on the first floor and died of smoke inhalation as it was a completely enclosed space with a kitchen, two rest rooms for workers and four toilets, in addition to a staircase from the ground floor and random storage of goods and extra shelves which blocked the exit, impeding their escape as well as hampering the task of the emergency teams.

Despite the constraints, the Civil Defence team succeeded in preventing a larger-scale tragedy and contained the fire in record time. A total of 210 families from different nationalities live in the building and all of them were evacuated to safety.

Col Al Naqabi advised all investors and business owners to adhere to safety standards on their premises and urged maintenance companies to follow Civil Defence rules and conditions, and submit reports every three months on their work.

He also urged them to inform the Civil Defence if the owner of the premises did not cooperate with them.

He cautioned business owners to desist from using the premises as accommodation for the workers.

If residents notice any violations in their building or shopping centres, he urged them to contact the Civil Defence on 06-5163333 or lodge a complaint with the Ministry of Interior website [suggestions and complaints section].

The victims

The deceased were identified as D.K., 32, from Bangladesh and M.A., 27, from India.

The hospital also received four men and a one woman who suffered from smoke inhalation.

They were identified as A.M., 25, M.Sh., 27, M.K., 27, A.H., 29, and Sh.R., 49.

Two of them were discharged on Saturday morning while the others are still under observation but their condition is stable, Dr Al Moa’almi said.

At the time of the incident, there were 82 people inside Al Manama Supermarket, a security man told Gulf News

“There was a lot of smoke in the hallway, we couldn’t see but managed to get to the stairs and went out of the building safely,” said a 50-year-old Indian resident, Shaikh Rashid Ahmad.

The building’s watchman, Lambadri, told Gulf News that the elevators were shut down and power and gas services disconnected for safety.

“Electricity and gas supply was cut off to the building until 7am on Saturday.” he said.

Ahmad Mahgob from Sudan said he thought it was a false alarm. “The fire alarm would always go off so we didn’t take it seriously. But when I opened the door, I saw smoke,” the father of two said. “I immediately grabbed my kids and ran out of the building.”

The watchman said some residents were out and received the news of the fire over phone from their friends and relatives.

A police and forensic investigation is on to determine the cause of the fire.