Five cars parked nearby were damaged by the fire at Tecom's Saif Belhasa building on Saturday. Image Credit: Zarina Fernandes/ Gulf News

Dubai: Fire erupted in a 13-storey residential apartment building in Tecom in Dubai on Saturday day morning, injuring at least two people and damaging at least nine floors.

Two infants were also treated for breathing difficulties after inhaling smoke.

According to a Dubai Civil Defence official, fire started on the fourth floor of the Saif Belhasa Building in Tecom which spread vertically, burning its way to the 13th floor. Nine flats, in the 07-series, were gutted in the fire. At least five cars parked near the building were also damaged.

The official said the operations room received a call at 9.35am and the firefighting teams were there within minutes. A fire truck with a crane was dispatched to put out the fire in the upper floors of the building. The fire was put out by 10.57am.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation. Three fire stations — Al Barsha, Al Quoz and Al Manara — participated in the operation, which was led by Brigadier Ahmad Obaid Al Sayegh, Director of Fire and Rescue Departments of Dubai Civil Defence.

According to the building manager, seven families have been left homeless. Among them is Indian expatriate Mohammad Ameen Khan, 32, resident of Flat No 807, who was sleeping when the fire erupted.

“I was inside my apartment, sleeping, when I woke up because of thick black smoke. I also heard the fire alarm so I took my passport, my laptop and headed downstairs,” Khan told Gulf News.

At around noon, residents of the 07-series apartments were allowed to enter their flats. Khan told Gulf News that everything in his flat was burned. “Everything is burned, nothing can be salvaged,” Khan said. “I’m just waiting for the building management on what I should do next.”

The building manager said temporary housing arrangements are already being made for the families affected.

“We are moving them to hotel apartments for the meantime. Our management is already discussing with them and with the civil defence and also with our insurance company our next step,” he said.

People screaming

“We first heard people screaming. Then there was noise in the hall and smoke started to come in,” Fadi Hachicho, another resident, said. “We were knocking on the door of Flat 507 because it seemed that the smoke was coming from there but no one answered, so we just went down the stairs.”

Luanne D’Souza, initially didn’t think that her building was on fire. “I thought it [fire alarm] was just a mistake. But we heard people banging on our doors, and when we opened our door, we saw smoke. Our neighbours also came to alert us,” D’Souza said.

The 13-storey building has 156 apartments and parking space below. Charred aluminium cladding panels were piled on the ground floor. Their burn marks suggest that fire spread vertically through the cladding walls.

In May this year, Gulf News reported that hundreds of skyscrapers and high-rise buildings across the country are wrapped in dangerous non fire-rated aluminium cladding panels which could put people’s lives in danger when there’s a fire.

A new national fire safety code, which will amend the existing provisions of the UAE Fire and Life Safety Code introduced in July 2011, is set to become law later this year. Once enacted, all non-fire rated cladding panels on skyscrapers will be banned.