Witnesses reported thick black smoke and fire balls leaping from the National Paints complex in Sharjah on Tuesday. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Sharjah: The largest fire in Sharjah this year so far broke out on Tuesday at the National Paints factory warehouse, a senior police official confirmed.

The massive blaze quickly spread and gutted four of the factory's warehouses.

 

 

One employee was injured jumping to safety from the first floor where he worked, and two firefighters were treated for smoke inhalation and minor abrasions to the skull.

All three were later released. Gulf News contacted National Paints office, but senior officials were unavailable for comment.

The fire broke out at approximately 9.30am. It took more than 250 firefighters more than four hours to get the fire under control, Acting Chief of Civil Defence Major General Rashid Thani Al Matroushi said.

The fire brought the city to a standstill as commuters were unable to pass Emirates Road heading towards Dubai.

Roads were blocked at University City as well as from the exit at Sharjah International Airport.

Nearby schools were evacuated, including more than 100 employees, who said they could hear explosions from the fire.

The cause of the blaze has not been established.

A doctor at Al Qasimi Hospital, who declined to be named, said the employee who jumped to safety from the first floor was admitted to hospital with pain in his knee and heel.

Sharjah Civil Defence Director Colonel Wahid Eisa Al Sarkal said: "This is the largest fire we have seen this year and we coordinated with the civil defence from the Western Region, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Ajman to put it out".

"Two firemen were injured and transferred to Al Qasimi Hospital, and a civil defence truck also caught fire." The fire continued throughout the day and police officials said they expected the cooling process to continue until Wednesday morning.

Investigations continue.

Traffic chaos

The fire caused traffic chaos on one of the UAE’s busiest roads.

Motorists heading towards Sharjah and northern emirates were stuck in traffic as the police is yet to reopen the Emirates Road near the National Paints roundabout.

A top Sharjah Police official said that three roads had been closed from the morning to help fire fighters easily access the place and control the fire.

Up to 20 police patrols have been deployed to control traffic and to direct motorists to use alternative roads, he said.

The officer said they dedicated up to Among the roads closed were Emirates road, Industrial area 4 and industrial area 3 road that is also known as Maleha road.

Albert Dias, who works for UAE travel portal musafir.com, said he heard a “loud bang” before the fire started. Moments later, a worker rushed into his office and told the staff  to evacuate.

Mr Dias tweeted about the fire (@albertdias) posting pictures and describing the scene on the roads surrounding National Paints as “chaos”.

When he ran out of his office, he saw that his car which was parked adjacent to the building was engulfed in flames.

"I decided against trying to take it out for fear of my own safety, because you could literally feel the searing heat from about 200m away, and it only got worse as the sound of container after container exploding sounded through the air. Moments later the entire area where the fire trucks were stationed on the street behind the factory where my car was parked appeared to be covered in smoke and flames. By that time the police feared the worst and began cordoning off the area, asking people to leave", he said.  

“I'll be picking it up with a spoon tomorrow”, he said about his car.

Mr Dias was also an eyewitness to the plane crash in Sharjah last year, as his company’s other office is in the Sharjah Airport Freezone.

Other eye witnesses reported that helicopters were used in the emergency operations.