The fire broke out at 5:53 am on Thursday morning and five beds were totally burned. Image Credit: Abedl-Krim Kallouche/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Death of four Asians on Thursday morning in a major fire at an improper labour accommodation has prompted authorities to issue a warning against converting warehouses into labour accommodations.

The fire broke out at a warehouse which also included a labour accommodation in Mussaffah at 5.53am and four Asians were suffocated to death at the scene, according to Abu Dhabi Civil Defence. Another Asian was rushed to the hospital for treatment.

The workers complained that there were no fire safety measures in the building owned by a real estate company.

Safety standards

Colonel Mohammad Al Nuaimi, director general of the Civil Defence in Abu Dhabi warned against improper conversion of warehouses into accommodation quarters which results in poor electrical wiring system and non-compliance with fire safety standards.

About 300 Asian workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh were living in more than 50 rooms in the building, the workers said. The authorities did not reveal the nationalities of the deceased.

The workers said the room from where the fire erupted was occupied by Nepalese and Bangladeshi workers but it was not confirmed whether they were among the dead.
The employers of the workers had taken the space on rent from the real estate company.

Overcrowded

The workers' accommodation which caught fire causing the deaths of four Asian workers in Mussaffah on Thursday was overcrowded, the workers told Gulf News.

Eight or nine people were sleeping in each room of the building, which was originally a warehouse, they said.

The fire broke out at 5.53am and the four Asians died at the scene, according to Abu Dhabi Civil Defence. Another Asian was admitted to the hospital for treatment.

Colonel Mohammad Al Nuaimi, director-general of Abu Dhabi Civil Defence, has warned against the improper conversion of warehouses into accommodation, often resulting in poor wiring and non-compliance with fire safety standards

About 300 workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh were living in more than 50 rooms in the building, the workers said. The authorities did not reveal the nationalities of those that died.

Spreading quickly

The fire erupted in one room and spread to others, an Indian worker said.

He said the Nepali workers living in the room where the fire started had only just arrived in the UAE. "Some Bangladeshi workers were also there," he said.

The Nepalese and Bangladeshi embassies in Abu Dhabi were not aware of the incident. Senior diplomats at both the missions said they had not been approached but that they would inquire as to whether their citizens were involved.

There were three minor accidents in the building stemming from short circuits in the past month, A.F, a Nepali worker, said.

Each time maintenance workers from the real estate company which owns the building rushed to the scene and put out the fire without informing the civil defence, he said.

"We were rushing out from the sleep each time when alarmed by co-workers," he said.

"We suspect the same short circuit caused this accident too," said a Bangladeshi worker.

Investigation

The civil defence would not comment on the cause of the fire as the investigation is on going.

The workers said they complained to their employer about the poor condition of the accommodation but no action was taken.

The workers did not want to be named for fear of disciplinary action.

A real estate company owns the building and more than a dozen companies rent the space for their workers. The real estate company and the employers were not available for comment yesterday.

The building is situated near the main gate of the Industrial City of Abu Dhabi in Mussaffah.

The workers said half of the 50 rooms were gutted by the blaze.

They said those who were living in the gutted rooms lost all their belongings.

Requests for alternative accommodation were not dealt with until yesterday evening.

Major fire mishaps

  • June 16, 2011 Four children and their mother die of smoke inhalation at their house in Abu Samrah near Al Ain.
  • October 18, 2009 A 45-floor tower under construction catches fire on Reem Island.
  • March 21, 2009 A massive fire guts the warehouse of a stationery shop in Mina Zayed.
  • February 28 2009 Abu Dhabi Police rescue more than 1,000 workers as fire guts 32 caravans at Khalifa City A in Abu Dhabi.