Latest Dubai skyscraper fire raises safety issues

Sulafa Tower on Fire, Sulafa tower dubai Marina
Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 20/07/2016
Photo by Ruel Pableo/ITP Images

The latest blaze in a Dubai high-rise building has put the issue of fire safety to the fore once again.

The 75 storey 285m tall Sulafa Tower in the Marina is the latest skyscraper to be engulfed in flames with hundreds of residents evacuated.

More than 50 civil defence firefighters bought the blaze under control in  around two hours and no injuries were reported.

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The fire follows similar incidents at The Torch apartment block last year and a blaze in 2012 which gutted Tamweel Tower in Jumeirah Lakes Towers. Most widely reported was the fire which engulfed The Address Downtown hotel on New Year’s Eve.

In Ajman fire destroyed dozens of apartments in a complex known as Ajman One and in each incident the question of materials used in cladding has been raised.

The latest fire broke out at the top of the building’s west face and burning debris was blown by swirling winds to its north side, around half way up. These floors then ignited and the flames spread up the side of the building, while flaming panels fell onto lower balconies, although many were extinguished when they dropped into the swimming pool on the structure’s plaza

Dr. John Graham, aged 61, who works at the Dubai Bone & Joint Centre said: “I live on the 43rd floor and when the fire alarm went off I thought it was a false alarm but it kept going. I went to the elevator and they were out of action. So I started to go down the stairs and the floors were slippery. The lights went off and it was pretty scary but people kept moving and there was no panic.

“When we got outside there were glass fragments from where the windows blew out. I could see that the original fire started from around the 70th floor of the west side of the building but the swirling gusting winds had blown debris all around to the north side of the building, starting it up around the 55th floor and the flames spread both up and down.”

A resident of the building also told how he carried a stricken elderly lady 40 floors to safety. Dr Arash Arabghani said: “After the alarm went off I went to the stairwell and there was an elderly lady and she seemed to have real problems so myself and another man got to her and carried her down 40 floors. People were running past us and no-one stopped to help.

“She was taken away in an ambulance but that was just a precaution.”

Many of the residents who gathered in the streets surrounding their flats called into question the safety of the materials used, as well as the recent spate of fires.

An amended UAE Fire and Life Safety Code is due to be released this year. It will include fines to be levied should faulty fire safety material ben discovered by inspectors from Duabi’s Civil Defence inspectors.

Manufacturers who sell building materials not approved by the authorities will face prosecution for the first time.

Speaking after the latest incident Major General Rashid Thani Al Matroushi, director-general of Dubai Civil Defence, said in a statement that the fire was brought under control within two hours and there were no casualties reported. He added that all residents were evacuated to ensure their safety

 

 

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