DUBAI // Civil Defence crews tended to hazardous materials and doused hot spots yesterday at the site of an industrial fire that erupted on Tuesday at a chemical warehouse.
And a school near the site at Dubai Investment Park 2 sent more than 1,000 pupils home in the morning, after the Civil Defence said thick smoke containing harmful gases was coming from the facility.
The Reda Industrial Materials warehouse burst into flames about 3pm on Tuesday after what witnesses called an enormous explosion that sent a fireball hundreds of metres into the air.
"I was making a delivery down the street yesterday when the explosion happened," said Mohammed Azhar, 26, a UPS delivery driver.
"There was a huge fireball that went very high up into the sky, then I saw the flames. You could see the smoke from several kilometres away. It was a really huge fire."
An employee at Reda yesterday said on condition of anonymity: "There was a massive explosion yesterday and then everything caught fire. The fire spread quickly and everything was destroyed in 20 minutes.
"The bosses are here today removing computers and important papers that are in the administration building because it could reignite. You can see the firemen are still here hosing it down."
Another worker warned passers-by not to step in chemicals still flowing from the warehouse.
"Be careful," he said. "That's a chemical cocktail that's flowing out from there. I stepped in that liquid and it soaked through my shoes. Now my feet are burning and I have blisters."
Brig Ahmed Al Sayegh, the assistant general manager of Dubai Civil Defence, said a hazardous materials containment team had responded to the incident and cleaned up all chemicals.
"Early in the day there was a concern about the fumes from the chemicals," Brig Al Sayegh said. "The hazardous materials unit responded to the site and cleaned everything up."
But at 2pm yesterday brown substances emitting a strong odour were still seeping from the gutted warehouse on to the street outside, as Civil Defence personnel worked on the administration building. Reda declined to comment on what chemicals were stored on the site, saying only there were "all kinds".
On its website, the company says it supplies "local industries with their needs of specialty and industrial chemicals, process products, equipment and technology".
Greenfield Community School in Dubai Investments Park sent more than 1,000 pupils home after the notice from the Civil Defence.
"As soon as we got the notice from the Civil Defence evacuation procedures were put in place," said Clive Pierrepont, the director of communications for Taaleem, which manages the school. "A communication went out by SMS and telephone."
But a small number of students remained at school and were kept indoors because their parents were not available to take them home.
A nursery and two other schools in the area remained open and parents called to check whether children were safe.
"Had there been any notice we would have closed," said Jof Vonk, the principal of Al Worood School.
"We are a bit out of the area and there is no problem … we have had parents phoning in."
Mr Vonk said the school had tried to contact Civil Defence several times but was unable to get through.
Another nearby facility, the Nibras International School, was open but kept its students indoors.
The cause of the blast was still being investigated. Civil Defence and Reda said there were no injuries or deaths.