x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Families in Dubai's Tamweel Tower blaze fear return to high-rises

Families evacuated from the Tamweel Tower blaze say they now fear living in high-rises and are looking for new homes closer to the ground.

DUBAI // Families evacuated from the Tamweel Tower blaze say they now fear living in high-rises and are looking for new homes closer to the ground.

Many of the residents at the Jumeirah Lakes Towers building say they worry another fire could occur, and that this time the outcome could be more tragic.

"I would not wish to live in a tower again after what happened at Tamweel," said Ilham Laullami, from France, who was evacuated with her two children from their 24th-floor flat early on Sunday.

"It's not just the height but the issue of this exterior cladding which is a worry for us. If it's not possible for us to find a low-rise then I wouldn't want to move to a floor above third."

Ms Laullami is staying in a hotel apartment at a cost of Dh9,000 a month from her own pocket. The building's developer, Tamweel, says former tenants will be paid back from insurance.

Diane Saroukhan, from the US, is also looking for a flat on a lower floor. "I wouldn't want to live in a high-rise again because you just don't know what might happen," she said.

Tamweel offered Ms Saroukhan a one-bedroom flat in Discovery Gardens, but she decided to find a place in Dubai Marina.

"It just wasn't big enough for us because there is also my parents, our maid and we have a dog, which was not allowed," she said.

"I've managed to find a two-bedroom apartment on the second floor in the Marina, which we will stay in for the next month."

For Jane Bishop and her husband Jim, both from the UK, moving into a villa or ground-floor flat would be ideal, but possibly too expensive.

"I really like The Greens but I use the Metro to get to work in DIFC [Dubai International Financial Centre] and it would be too far to the station walk to during summer," said Mrs Bishop.

The couple are now at the Gloria Hotel Apartments and are thinking of staying there long term.

"Unfortunately we are on the 35th floor here and we used to be on the 12th floor at Tamweel Tower," Mrs Bishop said. "I would prefer to be on a much lower floor."

For John Cox, also from the UK, the risk of fire while living in a tower will always be there.

"We were on the 19th floor so that is a concern," Mr Cox said. "But we bought our apartment so we need to first find out what is going to happen with the repair work."

Pallav Pancholi, from India, also owns his flat and has not ruled out returning to towers as he believes low-rise buildings still have risks.

"I personally don't have an issue with living in a tower but I know many of other residents no longer wish to," Mr Pancholi said.

"But even in a four-storey building there is nothing to say a fire couldn't happen on the ground floor that would make it difficult for people to escape."

Property agents say low-rise property is available in The Greens and villa developments such as The Springs and Jumeirah Village Triangle.

"It's still too early to get feedback from tenants but in the same price range it is possible for people to find similar accommodation," said Salik Ashrafi, a property adviser with Taktical Realty.

Two-bedroom villas are available in The Springs for Dh120,000 and three-bedroom villas for Dh150,000, while villas in Jumeirah Village Triangle are between Dh120,000 and Dh130,000.

"These would be near JLT and in their budget range, and as of now there is availability," Mr Ashrafi said.

Kalpesh Sampat, the director of SPF Realty, said it was too early for the effects of the JLT fire to be noticeable in the market, although news about the blaze did prompt one client to turn down a 19th floor apartment.

"She said she'd prefer a lower floor and cited the JLT fire as a reason," Mr Sampat said.

"The immediate psychological impact would be that tenants look at low-rise housing, but in the long term owners should look at insuring their property and tenants at insuring the contents of their apartment."