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Sharjah: Abbco Tower, the 49-storey building that caught fire in Sharjah on Tuesday, was fitted with flammable Aluminum cladding that was banned in the emirate in 2016, according to Colonel Sami Khamis Al Naqbi, Director General of Sharjah Civil Defence.

The 2016 banning order states that any new building over 23 metres (the equivalent of seven floors) cannot use the cladding because it surpasses the reach of a fire engine’s ladder, but Abbco Tower was built in 2006.

Old buildings surpassing this height that have this cladding were in the process of having their cladding replaced with safer non-flammable materials, upon the request of authorities.

Al Zahra Hospital, Fine Fair building and Nasser Tower in the emirate, are among those buildings in the emirate to have responded to the request by already replacing the cladding.

While not responsible for the initial blaze the cladding can lead to the rapid spread of flames.

Colonel Al Naqbi said, “The use of aluminium cladding causes many risks. Insulating layers can ignite and the method of installing the cladding constitutes to a rapid spread of fire.”

An investigation is still underway to determine the cause of the fire, which is believed to have started from the 10th floor from a heat source.

Nine people received minor injuries of which seven were transferred to hospital, he said.

All residents were safely evacuated and forensic teams conducted a sweep of the building on Wednesday to confirm that no-one had been left inside the building.

Colonel Al Naqbi confirmed that Sharjah Civil Defence is now considering a programme to get buildings to replace old cladding and even help building owners conduct replacements and find alternative materials at a reduced cost.

He stressed that the safety of residents in buildings within the emirate remains the top priority of Sharjah Civil Defence.

“Sharjah Civil Defence is encouraging developers, real estate owners and contractors to adopt safer methods and systems other than cladding used in the facades of buildings, which entails a heavy financial burdens on real estate.”

He added that the Sharjah Civil Defence will continue to raise awareness of the dangers of using aluminium facades through various means of media and direct communication with owners, contractors and consultants to enhance the safety requirements of buildings.

Inspection committees comprising representatives of departments concerned were carrying out inspections targeting residential, commercial and industrial building in the emirate to ensure they are being obliged by the 2016 safety regulation.

As for allegations of fire escapes being blocked and furniture in the corridor hindering the safe escape of tenants, Al Naqbi said if any violations were found during the investigation the owner would face legal action.