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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 September 2018

Dubai community rallies around displaced Torch tower residents

The call goes out for people to help those in fire-ravaged buildings - and Dubai residents answer

Dalia Lebbihi, a resident of Torch Tower, is currently staying at Media One Hotel with her family, helped by Theo Makris (R). Photo by Reem Mohammed / The National.
Dalia Lebbihi, a resident of Torch Tower, is currently staying at Media One Hotel with her family, helped by Theo Makris (R). Photo by Reem Mohammed / The National.

As the dust settles in the aftermath of the Torch Tower blaze, there are many questions left waiting to be answered.

One concern that does not need to be addressed, however, is how the people of the UAE's largest city respond to a crisis.

Offers of help, food and a place to sleep for the night for those displaced flooded social media in the aftermath of the Torch tower blaze, in the early hours of Friday morning. Some hotels have even offered free accommodation for dozens of residents for several nights.

Residents offered their services via hashtags, or handing out their personal mobile numbers.

Even Dubizzle got in on the action, putting out a call for any offers of help, and urging anyone who needed help to contact them via a Twitter thread.

Representatives from the company also went down to the Torch to offer help.

Theo Makris, a managing partner of the Dubai radio station Dance FM 97.8, who lives next door to The Tower said he was compelled to do something to help the residents after witnessing the fire destroy their homes.

“Obviously there was a lot of commotion that night and I’d gone down to see what was going on,” said Mr Makris. “We spoke to a lot of the tenants and everyone was quite distressed, you know, this is the second time it’s happened and so on. Everyone was panicking and nobody knew where to go or where to stay. It was quite a sad situation to be honest. So, I spoke to my team in the morning and said that we need to do something.”

Within a matter of hours, Dance FM’s head of marketing Natasha Talebli had enlisted the support of two hospitality partners – Media One Hotel and Radisson Blu – who together offered 30 rooms to help house about 70 residents free of charge for four nights.

“They very graciously came back and said absolutely, we would be more than willing to help you guys out for this, it’s such a great cause,” said Ms Talebli. “The hotels were so cooperative, we couldn’t have done this without them, they have been so helpful.”

The team reached out to the displaced residents through The Torch’s home owners association.

Digby Taylor, one of the station’s on-air hosts, said he had lived at The Torch during the first fire and sympathized with the current residents.

“So I remember very, very clearly what it was like – the feeling afterward, it’s quite a feeling of hopelessness, to be honest. You don’t know what to do next, you don’t know literally where you are going to sleep tonight. So we decided to take action,” he said.

For resident Dalia Lebbiei, an Algerian who lived in The Torch with her older parents, the radio team’s outreach was a welcomed relief.

“Really, I am happy with what they did for us,” said Ms Lebbiei. “My parents are old, and they are sick, so I need to get them in a comfortable place.”

Ms Lebbiei said The Torch’s management company had offered accommodations in Dubai Sports City, but she declined the offer due to the distance.

“Sports city is almost 45 minutes from here and all my life is based in Marina,” said Ms Lebbiei.

A spokeswoman for the Kingfield Owner Association Management Services said: “We continue to coordinate operations from Dubai Marina and are working alongside the authorities on site in their efforts to restore services and access to The Torch. Residents have been provided with emergency hotel accommodation until further notice from DCD (Dubai Civil Defence). Kingfield's head office will remain open until 9pm on Saturday 5 August for enquiries from owners and residents, and can be reached locally at 800-KINGFIELD (800-546434-353), 04 454-1500 or internationally at +9714 454-1500. We also recommend that owners and residents refer to the community portal where we continue to share regular updates.”

Careem immediately offered free lifts from all areas near the tower on Friday morning, as the dramatic scenes unfolded.

“At 1:20 am we pushed all drivers in nearby areas to go to the Torch Tower area to help pick up people affected by the fire,” Bassel Al Nahlaou, Careem’s vice president of business development and government relations, told The National.

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Read more

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Dubai Torch tower blaze: residents thought it was a false alarm

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2015: Fire rips through Dubai’s Marina Torch

2015: The Torch blaze reignites concerns over cladding used for Dubai towers

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The company posted on social media as well as sent messages to all mobile app customers.

The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi also got involved, tweeting that they had opened up their ballroom to house affected residents for the weekend - even offering refreshments.

Better Homes LLC, a Dubai real estate firm, has gone a step further. The company has offered residents of Torch tower a discount on finding new accommodation.

The company offered their condolences on Facebook, before saying they had "assembled a team of agents to help", and would offer a 50 per cent discount on commission.

Dubai-based yoga travel company operator Anjaan also took to Facebook to offer his help, announcing to his 4,000-plus Facebook followers to spread the message: “Anyone who has been evacuated from The Torch and need a place to stay tonight, please let me know."

“My heart went out to everybody who lost their houses when I heard about the fire, so I said, what can I do in my limited capacity? I can’t offer them money, but I can offer them my house,” said Mr Anjaan, an Indian native who only goes by one name. “So, I set up the bedroom and then I put out the message. But nobody took the offer. I don’t think my social media reach is that big, but I put it out to the universe, if somebody had really needed it, they would have found it.”

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