Investigation after Torch Tower blaze

The debate over the safety of cladding used in high rise buildings in Dubai is sure to be restarted after fire swept through one of the world’s tallest residential buildings.

Hundreds of people were evacuated on Saturday when flames engulfed the top of The Torch, a 79-story skyscraper.

Dubai’s police chief, General Khamis Mattar, said the fire appeared to be the result of an accident and did not suspect it was caused by any deliberate criminal act, as investigations continue. Seven people were treated for smoke inhalation following the fire.

Engineers focused on the exteriors of the building saying the blaze was reminiscent of the one which took hold in Tamweel Tower in December 2012.

A witness said flames shot out from two sides of the building as glass and metal rained down from near the summit of the structure, which stands more than 330 metres tall.

Around 20 fire trucks extinguished the blaze several hours after the fire alarm went off around 2am on Friday

Residents said the fire had been fanned by high winds, dislodging chunks of metal and glass onto the area below, including a nearby road more than 100 metres away.

The fire broke out on the 50th floor and one resident said they manually turned on the fire alarm by breaking the button.

After the evacuation many of those standing outside the building were dressed in nightware with others in evening dress as they returned from bars and restaurants.

Ahmed Al Atawi, a 36 year-old Egyptian tenant living with his wife and 11-month-old baby, said that they were woken by security guards and told to leave.

“We usually have all these false alarms so when I heard this one I thought I’ll just carry on sleeping it’s probably nothing,” he said.

“They knocked on our doors several times after the alarms started ringing, so we got dressed to leave.”

“I couldn’t think of anything else other than my wife and child so I grabbed our passports, I even left my phone upstairs and we headed to the exit.”

One female resident told online news services she had to walk down the stairs from her high-rise apartment to the lobby to escape the fire,

She said: “The lifts weren’t working so we had to walk down 72 flights of stairs with everyone, that took about 10 minutes as there were people carrying their children and babies and people who just weren’t fit enough to get down the stairs.

“We got to the lobby and there were the firefighters but we couldn’t exit at first because there were bits of the outside building falling to the floor at the door which were still on fire.

“Then they ran us out in little groups to across the street. And when we got outside we noticed that one of the corners was on fire and was spreading up the building.”

The Torch tower, which has 676 apartments, is the 32nd tallest building in the world. It was completed in 2011.

Watch video here. 


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2 Responses to Investigation after Torch Tower blaze

  1. Thom Bohlen says:

    The “Torch” – What an ironic and unfortunate name for one of the tallest residential structures in the world!

    This tower blaze is yet another prime example of the looming fire and life safety issue that numerous high-rise towers in the UAE and other cities of the world have, all because they were constructed utilizing combustible aluminum cladding.

    The UAE has addressed the combustible cladding issue for the construction of new towers, but the existing towers that remain with the combustible cladding will continue to be an issue for the thousands of occupants who live and work within them, and the Civil Defense Teams saddled with the task of protecting them.

  2. Basim AlSaie says:

    Over the past 25 years being in the aluminium systems business and related construction industry in the Gulf region, we have seen many cases where there were wrong and dangerous practices of using wrong materials and cladding solutions.

    Sadly, no seems to care as some contractors are only interested in getting the projects completed and moving on to the next one. Not much attention is being paid to the correct use of materials. If you have submitted an offer with using high specs and the proper materials you often where pushed out of the market by cowboys that use the cheapest things they can find. You were considered expensive and not competitive.

    Some top Architects and Consultants have strong specs that clearly define what can be used and what is not acceptable. But still the vast majority of projects go on using dangerous materials such as flammable polystyrene insulation for cladding insulation which can ignite and propagate! many such cases have happened in the past.

    In a market where there are so many transit people working on projects making money and moving on to other parts of the world there is in some cases negligence as someone can clearly say “what happens to this building or tower in 10 years is not my problem, as I won’t be here!”

    It is time that local building codes get a new look that ensures safety, good value for money and make it a level playing field for contractors and sub-contractors alike.

    We should not wait for a real disaster to happen before local authorities take the necessary actions.

    The time is now, and Dubai can lead the region as it is the most dynamic, innovative, and most under the microscope.

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