Sharjah: Weary tenants of fire-hit Abbco Tower in Al Nahda gathered around the cordon to see the destruction the morning after Tuesday night’s blaze.
They showed up after being put up in hotels overnight or having stayed with relatives, friends or colleagues.
The tenants of the 48-storey high-rise came to see if they could go up to their apartments to collect their essentials and assess the damage.
Authorities present at the site told them that gaining access to the building was not yet possible. Tuesday night's blaze has completely charred the exteriors on one side of the tower.
Some tenants said they were advised to visit Al Buhairah Police Station for guidance on what steps needed to be taken next and how to go about rebuilding their lives. An Indian tenant said he didn’t even have the taxi fare to go there as his wallet was left behind as he ran out to safety, down the stairwell from the eighth floor, on Tuesday night.
Rachel Aboina from Uganda, escaped unharmed with her three young children, aged one to four, and her husband and sister.
“We don’t know what’s next for us, everything looks damaged on this side of the tower. All I grabbed were my kids and my phone,” she said.
There were reports of a few minor injuries and some tenants treated on site.
Also unscathed was Kenyan tenant Dennis Ngugi, who fled from his sixth-floor, one-bedroom apartment with his wife, two children and sister.
“My family was sleeping, it was a little after 9pm. I heard people shouting ‘fire, fire’ from the next building. When I looked out of the window, I saw this bright light coming up from below. I woke everyone up and we left. There was no time to answer any question,” he said.
“It’s only when we were outside did I really see what was happening. The fire went up really fast.”
Ngugi and his family were given complimentary stay – two rooms – at Al Salam Grand Hotel in Al Taawun, like some of the other affected tenants, he said.
‘Just have my phone’
Nelson Machado, an Indian tenant on the 17-th floor, didn’t have time to finish dinner when the fire alarm blared.
“There was smoke on the floor and we - my brother and I - went down the staircase, with just our phones in our hands. Everything I own is inside that flat. I came here this morning hoping I could go up,” Machado said.
The same hope drew Alice Sebastian, who lives alone in her third-floor studio, to the burnt rubble and debris around the building.
“I was returning from work – I’m a nurse – when I saw the smoke. In 1ten minutes, all the floors were on fire. I’m afraid I may have lost everything,” she said.
The same scene played out before Dr Ajay Prabhu, who was also returning home from work.
“Luckily, my wife is in India right now. I don’t know what’s the condition of our apartment from the inside. It is on the side that was not on fire. I only have my wallet and phone, everything else – passport, degrees, documents – are in the apartment,” he said.
According to tenants, there are 12 apartments on each floor (meaning a total of around 432 apartments), with six on one side and six on the other.
Rents for studios are around Dh18,000 to Dh19,000 per year and around Dh30,000 for one-bedroom apartments in the tower.