Grateful to be alive: Building residents Mohammed Ebnu Wafid, Mohammed Unais, Riyas Kaikambam and Jamsheer M.P. Image Credit: Gulf News

Dubai: Residents of a Dubai building, where 16 people died in a horrific fire on Saturday, are waiting to enter the building and collect their valuables and essential belongings, even as they expressed their gratitude to Dubai Civil Defence for saving their lives.

At least 16 people were killed and nine others injured in the blaze which Dubai Civil Defence attributed to a lack of compliance with building security and safety requirements.

Dubai building fire

Authorities sealed the building while Dubai Police cordoned off the area to ensure safety. Several people continued to stay outside the building that bore black smoke stains on the façade of a couple of fourth-floor apartments. There are around two dozen residential apartments on each floor of the five-storey building except on the ground floor where several commercial establishments are located.

Residents stand outside the building in Deira that caught fire on Saturday afternoon. Image Credit: Anas Thacharpadikkal/Gulf News

Occupants, including those rescued by Civil Defence, were waiting to go back to their apartments at around 4pm on Sunday to collect their valuables.

“Most of us are bachelors and we went to our friends’ or colleagues’ places late at night,” said Riyas Kaikambakam.

“We are still in the same clothes. All our belongings are inside,” he told Gulf News.

Life saved, flight missed

Kaikambakam runs a mobile shop on the ground floor of the building. He was scheduled to fly home to the south Indian state of Kerala on Sunday afternoon. “I had booked the ticket for a 12.50pm flight to spend Eid with my family.”

A police patrol outside the Dubai building that caught fire on Saturday. Image Credit: Anas Thacharpadikkal/Gulf News

He said he was in the shop when the fire took place around on Saturday. “I stepped out and looked up to see the huge flames.”

Kaikambakam said he had rushed to phone his roommates and neighbours.

Eight men from Kerala live in a two-bedroom apartment that is just four flats away from the one in which the fire began. Only four were at home when the fire took place.

Kaikambakam’s roommates Mohammed Unais, Mohammed Ebnu Wafid and Jamsheer MP, recollected the nerve-wracking moments when the building caught fire.

“I was sleeping then. One of my roommates had stepped out to go to work and that is when he saw the smoke. We checked from the balcony and saw the fire,” said Unais.

They had also got calls from Kaikambakam by then, alerting them about the fire.

Indebted to saviours

Wafid said they were extremely worried for their lives. “Had we tried to use the stairs or stayed in the rooms like some of our neighbours did, we would have also endangered our lives,” he recalled, adding that they remained in the corridor.

The men said they are forever indebted to Dubai Civil Defence for rescuing them.

“Had they not helped us we wouldn’t have been here today. We are always indebted to them,” said Unais.

They were safely brought down using cranes and ladders.

Mourning neighbours

With heavy hearts, the men, along with hundreds of other residents, waited outside the building to enter the building.

Suhail Kopa, who was safe as he was out at work on Saturday, said: “We hope our flat is not damaged. We are devastated about losing our neighbours. They are people whom we used to meet and greet every day. It is heartbreaking to think we have lost 16 neighbours, some of whom were close to us. I am also coordinating to help with the repatriation of their bodies.”