x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

DNA tests to identify Dubai perfume factory fire victims

The forensics department of Dubai Police say some of the bodies were burnt beyond recognition, and further tests needed to be conducted.

Tuesday's fire at Afnan Perfumes claimed the lives of 11 men - six Indians, four Bangladeshis and one Pakistani.
Tuesday's fire at Afnan Perfumes claimed the lives of 11 men - six Indians, four Bangladeshis and one Pakistani.

DUBAI // DNA tests will be performed on the bodies of 11 men killed in a fire at a perfume factory, authorities said yesterday. The forensics department of Dubai Police said some of the bodies were burnt beyond recognition, and further tests needed to be conducted. The bodies were being kept at the Dubai Police mortuary.

"We have taken the samples from the victims' bodies and we will match these with their relatives once their samples are available," said Lt Col Ahmad al Meherri, the head of Dubai Police's forensic department.  "We have the passports of all the victims. We always carry out DNA-tests on victims of fire and drowning cases, regardless of the conditions of the remains, to ensure that the right identity is connected to each body," he said.

The police are now awaiting samples from the victims' relatives. "The concerned police station will carry out the necessary steps to either contact their sponsors or their family members," said Lt Col al Meherri. Company officials at Afnan Perfumes gave out names of the workers who were at the factory on the night. "We had 11 men there and all of them died," said an official at the company. "There were no survivors."

The Emirati owner of the company, his Indian partner and the Indian manager of the company were arrested after the fire. However, the owner was later released on bail. The three have been referred to public prosecutors for breaching health and safety regulations, resulting in accidental deaths. More details, including the names, ages and nationalities of the workers, were released by the company.

Six were from India, four from Bangladesh and one was from Pakistan. The company said it had already contacted family members of all the men. Some of the relatives were living in the UAE, while others would have to travel here to identify and collect the remains. "We have already informed the consulates and the family members. We are doing everything we can to support the families," said the official. He said that compensation procedures would also be followed according to law.

The Indian Consulate in Dubai said it would follow up with the company to ensure that the families received their rightful compensation.  "Our efforts to contact the company have not been very fruitful so far," said Sanjay Verma, the consul general of India in Dubai. "We had some relatives and friends of the deceased approach us and we provided them all with assistance." He said the consulate was also helping to contact the families of victims. "We plan to write to the government and highlight that this matter needs to be pursued."

Meanwhile, Dubai Municipality said it was investigating in co-ordination with Dubai Police. "A joint statement on the incident will be issued soon," said a spokesman.     The civic authority is gathering evidence against the company for allegedly housing the workers in the factory illegally.    The death toll of the blaze is one of the highest in Dubai's recent history. In August 2008, 11 construction workers died in their sleep when a fire gutted an overcrowded villa in Naif that housed over 500 labourers. Five months before that, an explosion destroyed a warehouse in Al Quoz that was illegally storing firecrackers. The fire from the explosion burnt for several days before it was brought under control.

The incidents prompted a clampdown on fire safety by Dubai Municipality and Civil Defence. "The fire safety campaign in warehouses continues and we will crackdown on offenders," said Redha Salman, the head of public health and safety at Dubai Municipality.    Dubai Civil Defence also launched an initiative to link all warehouses in Al Quoz to a central alarm system. More than 300 fines and warnings were issued in the first half of this year to warehouses and companies found breaking fire, health and safety regulations. pmenon@thenational.ae wissa@thenational.ae

September 2004: At least five labourers are killed and 12 injured when a wall collapses at Dubai International Airport. November 2007: An under-construction bridge collapses in Dubai Marina, killing seven workers and injuring 15 others. March 2008: An explosion occurs at a warehouse in Al Quoz where firecrackers are being stored. It takes several days to douse the blaze. August 2008: 11 Indian workers are killed when an overcrowded villa in Naif, Deira, is gutted by fire.