Sharjah: Chaos and uncertainty followed the aftermath of Tuesday's blaze, which erupted at a 33-storey tower in the Al Nahda area in Sharjah.
Saeed Awad Al Jaberi, owner of Al Aneeqa Tower, confirmed that he was willing to cover the costs of tenants' hotel bills. Al Jaberi told Gulf News that 18 apartments were completely gutted after the fire, and that 150 families had to be evacuated from the building.
Nevertheless, tenants said they had no idea they would be compensated for their costs, and that the management had only informed them that they would receive a deduction of Dh500 off their tenancy contract.
"My wife, daughter and I are staying at a hotel apartment nearby. We lost everything in the fire and were only able to rescue our passports. If the owner was going to compensate us, they should have informed us. Instead, I only knew about the offer after reading it in the newspaper," said a Pakistani tenant.
Other tenants said they could not afford to stay in a hotel since they lost all their belongings in the fire, and managed to spend the night with relatives.
Most of the tenants whose apartments were not affected by the fire arrived back at Al Aneeqa Tower at 3am yesterday morning to collect their belongings. They were informed by Sharjah Police they could return to their apartments later that day as they waited for the electricity to get connected.
Tenants also said they were frustrated over the lack of professionalism on how the building's security handled the evacuation.
"There is only one watchman employed and he also works as a security guard. The man hardly speaks a word of English and did not inform us when the fire first erupted," said Albert Conception, a tenant from the eighth floor.
The Sharjah Civil Defence were able to complete the cooling operation yesterday morning, and the forensic laboratory at Sharjah Police had already started its investigation to determine the exact cause of the fire that broke out on the eighth floor apartment of an Afghani family.
"The fire alarm was not working properly and it only started to ring one hour after the fire broke out," said Alaa Rahan, a tenant. "My pregnant wife was at home at the time and she realised there was a fire after smoke swept in from under the door. The emergency exits had bicycles scattered throughout the stairs and it was difficult to walk through," he said.
Brigadier Abdullah Al Suwaidi on Wednesday estimated the cost of the fire at more than Dh1 million. The building was constructed in 2010 and is properly insured.
Abdul Aziz Al Mansouri, director of the Building Department Section at Sharjah Municipality, said the municipality is waiting for a detailed report into the cause of the fire. Initial reports suggest the fire started due to electric short-ciruct but investigations are still underway.
"Once we receive the report, we will then start inspecting the building to ensure that it is safe. We have already formed a committee to inspect the building in terms of the material used for construction, and then will inform the building's owner on how to carry out the proper maintenance."