Dubai: In the late hours of a weekend night and under cover of darkness, Dubai did a clean, swift, and successful firefighting operation that very few of us noticed. Efforts were led and followed personally by Shaikh Mansour Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Higher Committee for the Protection of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The world should learn from Dubai once again.
At close to 1am on Friday, a massive fire broke out in the 87-storey Torch Tower, one of the tallest residential building in the world located in Dubai Marina area. Within moments, first responders from Dubai Civil Defense and emergency services were at the scene.
Among the first responders were two of Dubai’s top officials: the Commander-in-Chief of Dubai Police Major General Abdullah Al Marri wearing a kandoura with a red baseball cap; and Major General Rashid Al Matrooshi, Director General of Dubai Civil Defense, also in a kandoura. This clearly shows they were off duty then.
Their priority was evacuation of the occupants, safety of residences, and containment of the fire. The UAE, and Dubai in particular, has a very transparent and accurate public communication strategy; hence Dubai Media Office, the official media arm of the Government of Dubai, and Dubai Civil Defense were very quick on twitter and Instagram announcing what’s going on, and how the fire is being dealt by emergency services. Minute-by-minute updates were out on their channels to keep public and media informed.
Torch Tower is in the middle of Dubai Marina, a busy tourist and leisure destination, and situated very closely to other high-rise towers which are mostly residential or hotels buildings. The tower is occupied by a big number of occupants and residents; hence evacuation would not be an easy task, especially when it comes to a night time evacuation when most the residents are asleep. But surprisingly by 2am, Dubai Civil Defense confirmed the completion of full evacuation of the Torch Tower, and reported absolute zero missing, casualties or injuries.
As efforts to put out fire were underway, pictures and videos of the fire were viral on Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat Map, and other social media channels.
In the videos and pictures was seen a gentleman in black baseball cap and casual shorts who appears to be getting out of his car, meeting officials on site, and instructing firefighters on tactics and strategies.
He was non other than Shaikh Mansour, the son of UAE’s Vice President, Prime Minister, and Ruler of Dubai. It is 3am of a summer night, he is supposed to be either vacationing somewhere in an exotic island or at least sleeping at his home. But this is UAE, a strong independent country when it comes to security, emergency support, or protection.
Without exaggeration, just a few days ago Shaikh Mansour was also seen speaking to a site in-charge of Dubai Civil Defense at a minor fire incident at a textile storage in Al Qouz, Dubai.
During Friday's incident, men of Dubai Civil Defense had extinguished the fire at the Torch Tower at around 3am, and Dubai Media Office tweeted a picture of the building, with the fire extinguised. Several twitter users also posted similar photos.
Civil fires are very common in countries where temperature hit above average of 45 degrees Celsius in day time and occasionally cross 40 degrees in early evenings. Although the exact cause of Torch Tower’s Friday fire remains to be fully investigated, controlling large fires on massive and fully occupied infrastructures with zero casualties in record time is now a specialty of the UAE.
Success in such situations is not only measured by the rescue missions, but it is the whole program. All the occupants and residents of Torch Tower were immediately placed in nearby top-class hotels and other furnished apartments. Anyone who has visited or lives in Dubai can confirm how luxurious and expensive Marina and JBR hotels are.
In the rescue operations, even animals were not left behind by Dubai emergency services. A firefighter was also seen carrying a surviving cat as he walks towards the emergency vehicle. The pet was later safely handed over by Dubai Police Commander-in-chief Major General Abdullah Al Marri to its owner.
My heart goes on when I recall the mayhem in 2012 at Doha’s Villaggio Mall fire, where a day time fire unfortunately took away lives of 13 children and 6 adults, nothing can be done to return the dead. Investigations later revealed that primary cause of casualties was due to lack of “necessary safety conditions” at a day care center in the mall. A Qatari court later also found five people guilty of death by negligence at the incident, including the then Qatari ambassador to Belgium and his wife who owned the day care center at the mall. Unfortunately, the diplomat was later acquitted.
Not long ago was the devasting fire at a 24-storey residential tower in middle of London: the Grenfell Tower. The fire engulfed at least 80 people who are presumed dead by today. Fire fighters at the Grenfell Tower were severely hampered by equipment faults and pushbacks, leading to delays in extinguishing the inferno. The fire at the building was finally extinguished after more than 24 hours of the first incident report. The blaze also left hundreds of residents homeless.
My comparisons of these incidents may not fully fit in with the Torch Tower fire, but at least the examples of these unfortunate incidents give a sense of how well Dubai’s emergency services prepare for and handle such chaotic situations.
If it were only about money or availability resources, then the richest country per capita, Qatar, would not have failed in even serving justice to the victims, let alone saving the people. But here again we talk about long term strategy, excellent planning, swift execution, justice, crisis management, and most of all, the vision of President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan and leaders of this country.
Hassan Sajwani is an Emirati writer on current affairs, politics, tech, and finance; you may follow him on twitter @HSajwanization