Dubai: A tower crane supervisor, who dangled on a rope and slid downward from the 15th floor of a 29-storey building that was on fire on Saturday, told Gulf News his leather gloves saved him.
“I thought to myself, there’s no other way out but through the balcony. I clung to the rope outside the balcony and slid myself down by about seven to 10 metres before reaching the [construction] cradle. Thank God, only my leather gloves got burnt!” the German supervisor recounted.
Fire broke out in tower A of the Imperial Residence building in Jumeirah Village Triangle on Saturday at around 3.15pm. The building was under construction, but nearing completion.
A spokesperson from the Dubai Civil Defence said one worker died while attempting to climb down the building using access ropes. The spokesperson said Civil Defence rescued around 300 workers trapped inside the building. He said fire started on the seventh floor and moved its way up. The cause of the fire is pending investigation.
On Sunday, construction work resumed although there were few workers onsite.
The supervisor told Gulf News his team was rearranging the beams for the tower crane on the 15th floor when they saw smoke.
No escape through stairwell
“What can I do? Smoke filled the entire floor very fast. We tried to exit via the stairwell but it was already filled with smoke. We couldn’t see where we were going,” the supervisor said. “We knew we wouldn’t make it down through the stairwell without suffocating. We didn’t stand a chance.”
Within a split second, he joined other workers who were then trying to escape using the ropes outside. He clung to it and slid downwards to a cradle.
“By the time I got there, some Indian workers were already on the cradle. We manually released the brake on one side so the cradle would move downwards, but it didn’t work,” he said.
Instead, when the brake was released, the cradle tilted to one side forcing all of them downwards. They all had to run to the other side to keep the cradle’s balance. They released the brake again and the cradle tilted to the other side.
“We were running back and forth from one side of the cradle to the next as we released the brakes. The cradle just kept zigzagging downwards,” the supervisor said.
He said both gloves were burnt because of the friction on the electric rope while he was sliding down. “I threw it away. I don’t want to remember anymore,” he said.
Eyewitnesses told Gulf News they saw about five people escape the building by climbing down using the electric ropes like Spiderman. But, not all were lucky.
Binod, a security guard in the next building, told Gulf News: “They were climbing down like soldiers training in the army,” the guard said. “But the fourth man got stuck in one of the window shades. He turned around and fell.”
Binod described him as a South Asian in his 30s.
Gulf News tried to speak to the project manager about the dead worker, but he said he couldn’t speak to the press as “he was busy”.
Gulf News also contacted Tameer, the developer of the twin tower residential building. A Tameer executive said: “The contractor immediately deployed its safety protocol and successfully managed to contain the fire. With deep regret, Tameer later learnt that the fire led to one fatality, the exact cause of which remains unclear.”