Fire-hit Tamweel Tower residents closer to moving back home
DUBAI // Residents of Tamweel Tower hope to move back into their flats within the next two months after waiting four years for repairs to be completed on the fire-ravaged building.
Most have been living in rented apartments after escaping the blaze in the 34-storey building in Jumeirah Lakes Towers in November 2012.
Businessman Pallav Pancholi said it has been a stressful time. He has been living near Tamweel after having to flee his 23rd floor flat with his wife and children.
“We stay in the opposite building, so we see it every day,” he said. His flat suffered no damage, but residents were required to leave after authorities closed the building.
“We are still waiting for clearance. We understand it is for safety but it is really very difficult for us,” said Mr Pancholi. “It has been a huge loss for everyone. We are hoping and praying to get a final date to move in two months. Everyone just wants to go back.”
A Dubai Civil Defence official said a completion certificate would be handed over after a third-party inspection of the newly installed fire-rated cladding.
The blaze in the 160-apartment tower was sparked by a discarded cigarette that ignited waste material and spread to the flammable cladding, investigations found.
There have been calls for improved building safety after six major tower fires over the past five years were fuelled by aluminium cladding with a combustible thermoplastic core.
Authorities attempted to phase out combustible cladding in new buildings with the Federal 2012 Fire and Life Safety code but concerns about buildings constructed before then persist.
As the first residential building on which cladding repair has been completed, Tamweel Tower is a test case.
Delays were caused by a lack of clarity about whether the owners’ association or insurance company could handle contracts for repair work. The owners’ group also had to register with the real estate authority and reconstruction clearances were required from the municipality and civil defence. A civil defence rule mandated that all old cladding panels be removed and not just portions ruined by the blaze.
Orient Insurance, the tower’s insurer, took over the building in 2014 and repairs began in October 2015. Work was finished late last year but report submissions on installations were incomplete. Compliance was also required on additional sprinklers, smoke detectors and raising balcony heights. For Amit Suri, acting chairman of the Tamweel Tower Owner’s Association, it is a matter of waiting for the procedural formalities.
“The cladding test is required and is expected to be submitted at the end of this month by a consultant approved by civil defence. We are targeting and estimating that all requirements should be completed in the next few months and we can go back to our homes by March or April at least.”
Owners said uncertainty weighed on residents who hoped they would not need to extend rental contracts further while continuing to pay mortgages on their Tamweel apartments.
“The last year has been positive, with work progressing but we are still waiting for our apartments,” said Saqib Sheikh, who owns three flats, two of which were damaged in the fire.
“At every step near the handover, something else comes up. But every day, we have new hope that we will soon move back.”
Updated: January 7, 2017 04:00 AM