x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Dubai tower fire: Municipality has no authority over free zones

Take our poll: The municipality's inspectors will investigate the Tamweel Tower blaze but only for their own records, if they find anything wrong there might be nothing officials can do.

The municipality will carry out its own investigation into the blaze that gutted Tamweel Tower in Jumeirah Lakes Towers - but not in an official capacity. Pawan Singh / The National
The municipality will carry out its own investigation into the blaze that gutted Tamweel Tower in Jumeirah Lakes Towers - but not in an official capacity. Pawan Singh / The National

DUBAI // The municipality will carry out its own investigation into the blaze that gutted Tamweel Tower in Jumeirah Lakes Towers - but not in an official capacity.

Marwan Al Mohammed, the head of engineering supervision at the building department, said because it had no authority over free zones any findings would be filed in the municipality archive.

"Nobody has requested us to investigate the fire and we have no jurisdiction in free zones," Mr Al Mohammed said. "But since we were called to the scene of the incident by the Civil Defence control room it is our procedure to file a report."

The municipality's inspectors have not yet entered the 34-floor tower.

Blazing chunks of aluminium cladding were seen falling from the building.

Dubai Municipality has listed this type of cladding as a highly restricted material, requiring approvals from it and Civil Defence, and several inspections during installation.

"We have strict procedures on the installation of such materials, which focus on thermal insulation and fire safety," said Mr Al Mohammed.

"These procedures are approved by the municipality and the Civil Defence. We will be calling on the contractor and consultant of the building to see how they installed the cladding."

He said that even if the installation was not in compliance with the municipality's procedures, there might be nothing officials can do.

"We are not the regulating authority and we are not aware what rules and regulations the Jumeirah Lakes Towers [JLT] regulating authority has in place," Mr Al Mohammed said.

"So hypothetically, if the regulations do not enforce the correct procedures how can we hold the contractor or consultant accountable?"

JLT falls within the authority of the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre Free Zone. The law regarding free zones states the authority is granted ownership of, and jurisdiction to develop, manage and govern its area.

This means it is the only authority in charge of issuing permits, implementing and enforcing building and construction regulations, inspecting projects and enforcing health and safety regulations within the free zone.

Therefore, the authority overrides government sectors within the free-zone area, with the exception of Dubai Police and the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority.

Although the municipality's report on the incident has not been requested, it will be available to legal authorities should they ask for it.

malkhan@thenational.ae