SHARJAH // Tenants who were left homeless when the 40-storey Al Tayer Tower was gutted by fire in April have started to move back into their homes.
The apartments have been repaired after Sharjah Municipality gave the owners of the building, in the Al Nahda neighbourhood, permission to reopen it.
Asia Patel, a mother of two from India who lives in one of the flats with her family moved back in, despite admitting she does not feel safe there.
"I did not have the means to relocate after the fire," she said. "It was so expensive and I had lost almost everything. I am making rehabilitation my priority now and will relocate once my contract expires and I have recovered my financial losses."
She added that she was pleased her rent had not been increased by her real estate company, a common complaint among other tenants.
Mirza Baig, who was also affected by the fire, said the rent for a two-bedroom flat had increased from Dh34,000 before the blaze to Dh38,000 after the renovation work for anyone wanting to renew a contracts or new tenants.
"Maybe once the year ends, they will ask me to pay more like the others," said Ms Patel.
Engineer Abdul Aziz Al Mansouri, the director of technical affairs at Sharjah Municipality, said the building's owners were cleared by police and Civil Defence to repair the building after the municipality issued a maintenance permit.
"Once all the investigations were done and the owners satisfied the requirements for safety, the permit was given," he added.
The material used to replace the flammable aluminium cladding that was blamed for helping the fire to spread so quickly had been approved by experts and it was safe for tenants to return, he said.
While Al Tayer Tower has been cleared, Al Baker Tower 4 and Al Kuwait Tower, both of which were almost entirely destroyed by fire, are still in ruins.
Mr Al Mansouri said the owners of Al Baker tower, which was destroyed in January, are still awaiting final clearance from Civil Defence for a maintenance permit.
The municipality has ruled that Al Kuwait tower, which burnt down two years ago, is too old for renovation and the owners have been ordered to demolish it.
Police blamed discarded cigarettes for causing the fires in all three buildings. About 125 families were displaced as a result of the Al Baker blaze, while 200 were left homeless after Al Kuwait Tower was destroyed.
Meanwhile, residents of Al Tayer Tower are still fighting for compensation.
A group of about 20 met on Saturday in Al Nahda Park to discuss new strategies to deal with landlords and insurance companies.
Last night, the group met the president of the Sharjah Indian Association to discuss the situation over their claims.