ABU DHABI // More than a thousand men had to be rescued when a fire broke out amid mobile homes at a labour camp in Khalifa City A.
A total of 32 out of 66 homes caught fire due to strong winds before the blaze was brought under control in the early hours of yesterday.
Amid reports of explosions, many labourers ran out of their burning homes, carrying what possessions they could, and in some cases dragging their mattresses behind them.
With around 32 labourers sharing each home, more than a thousand men were left homeless, but no injuries were reported.
The camp is adjacent to a construction site near the Etihad buildings.
Although the cause of the fire is still under investigation, men who escaped from the first burning caravans believe a gas cylinder may have exploded while someone was cooking.
Eyewitnesses said many of the workers squeezed into the remaining caravans that were already filled to capacity, while others waited for alternative accommodation to be provided by their employers.
"The 66 caravans making up the housing complex of these labourers are attached to one another very closely; their proximity aided the fire in spreading so quickly," said Capt Mohammed al Sahi, director of the rescue and rapid intervention department at Abu Dhabi police.
"The quick interventions of our fire department saved the lives of more than 1,000 men."
Lt Khalid Labadi, who had been overseeing the rescue, said the combined efforts of men from the Abu Dhabi civil defence department and the fire brigade made the situation salvageable.
"The emergency unit worked fast to contain the fire and prevent it from spreading to all the caravans in the labour camp," he said. "We organised transportation to move the men to a safer location away from the smoke and fire."
Authorities at the Abu Dhabi Civil Defence Department urged all companies overseeing construction projects to have firefighting equipment on hand in case of emergencies, and not to be negligent in providing a safe working and living environment for labourers, in a statement issued yesterday.
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