Dubai: A Cameroonian woman survivor of a Dubai building fire that killed 16 people on Saturday recalled how she sustained injuries after jumping from the building to escape.
Yemdzu Doris Claire, a cashier with an African restaurant in Dubai, was among the nine people who sustained injuries in the blaze, which, Dubai Civil Defence said, was caused due to a lack of compliance with building security and safety requirements.
Speaking to Gulf News on Monday, Claire said she and her colleague, chef Nicoline Abinkeng, were asleep in their apartment when the fire broke out. The apartment was shared by seven people, mostly hailing from Cameroon and Nigeria.
“We didn’t know what happened. We were woken up by one of our flatmates who said ‘fire, fire’ and ‘everyone jump, jump,’” claimed Claire.
“Our room was already dark, and we could not find the staircase. The way to the staircase was dark. There was smoke everywhere.”
“We jumped from the fourth floor to the first floor. Nicky (Nicoline) took the bag which had our Emirates IDs and we scrambled to jump.”
Claire said she was initially scared and found it too difficult to jump when she looked down. “I could not find Nicky. Maybe she had already jumped directly down. I said to myself ‘I don’t have any choice’ and I jumped.”
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Claire said she first fell on an air conditioner exhaust. “I held on to something and burnt my hand and from there I fell on the second floor and then, I found myself in the hospital. That is all I can remember.”
Dubai Civil Defence Operations Room was first notified about the fire at 12.35pm and a team from the Dubai Civil Defence headquarters, the first responder, arrived at the site of the accident at 12.41pm.
Claire said she had jumped before the Civil Defence reached the spot. “I was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance.”
She sustained injuries on her leg and burns on her palm. “Thankfully, I did not suffer any fracture. I was discharged from the hospital on the same evening.”
Currently staying with her brother, Claire said she was heartbroken to hear about the loss of Nicoline. “She was my best friend and colleague. We were always together. We enjoyed going to the gym and hanging out. She was a Mother Christmas, loved by everyone.”
Brother grieves loss
Nicoline’s elder brother Alain Abinkeng said his sister was a single mother who was loving, caring, and always supported her family back home. “She supported our parents and her daughter. She was a popular chef among her customers and on social media. She was only 28. She has gone too soon,” said the devastated brother.
He said Nicoline was trying to relocate to Malta for a new job. “She already cleared the first round of the interview, and she was looking forward to the next procedures.”
Alain said it was his younger brother Efuet Lasong Julius, who also works in Dubai, who informed him about the tragedy. “I was at work and later I saw 15 missed calls from my brother. When I rang back, he said he wanted to check in which building she stayed as there was a fire in that area and Nick was not responding to calls.”
The brothers rushed to the site only to be told that she had been taken to the mortuary. “We went to the hospital and then to the police mortuary where she was kept. We are now struggling to arrange her repatriation. My parents and her daughter want to see her for the last time,” he added.