SHARJAH // A fire that gutted an under construction high-rise residential building on Monday may have been caused by a carelessly discarded cigarette, officials said yesterday.
Preliminary investigations suggested a cigarette butt discarded near an electric circuit box in the Al Mansour building could have started the blaze, said Col Ali Rahma Al Owais, the deputy director general of Sharjah Civil Defence.
"There could have been a lapse in safety measures," he said. "One worker or an engineer was smoking at the site and could have thrown the cigarette into or near an electric circuit, triggering the blaze."
He said the fire started on the first floor of the building, opposite Al Safeer Mall in Al Khan, and quickly spread to almost all of its 21 storeys.
"There were a lot of plastic materials on all floors to keep the newly installed glass intact, and these plastic materials helped the blaze to spread very fast," he added.
Firefighters from Sharjah were on the scene within about five minutes, joined soon afterwards by colleagues from Dubai.
It took them about two hours to bring the blaze under control.
It is believed that the Al Mansour building was being constructed by Demas and Ali Farhan Engineering and Contracting Company.
About 40 workers were at the site during the fire, but all were evacuated without injury, said Col Al Owais.
Smoke from the fire could be seen from as far away as Al Qusais in Dubai and the Sharjah Industrial Areas.
Two feeder roads close to the building were cordoned off during the blaze, creating heavy traffic on Al Taawun Road and Al Ittihad Road.
Neighbouring buildings remained cordoned off yesterday as a precaution by authorities.
"After the cooling process, firefighters will hand the premises on to police CID and forensic laboratory experts to investigate the fire," Col Al Owais said.
Col Al Owais said it was the biggest fire in a residential area this year. Summer is notorious for large fires in Sharjah. Last July, a blaze in the Kuwait building on Al Arouba Street nearly destroyed the 14-storey building.