x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Fate of tower hangs in balance

Officials still have not decided whether to raze or rebuild the Kuwait building, which was ravaged by fire last year.

The viability of the fire-damaged Kuwait Tower is still being assessed.
The viability of the fire-damaged Kuwait Tower is still being assessed.

SHARJAH // Consultants are still assessing whether the 14-storey Kuwait Tower, which was gutted by fire a year ago, should be repaired or demolished, authorities say.

The municipality committee investigating the emirate's biggest residential fire authorised the owner of the building to use his own consultants to determine the building's viability, said Abdul Aziz Al Mansouri, the deputy director general of the technical department at the municipality.

"We have already given them our requirements," Mr Al Mansouri said. "It's up to them and their professional consultants to provide a detailed study that proves the building can be repaired, or else it will be demolished."

Mr Al Mansouri said the municipality would require the building, which is in the Butina area, to be insured and for the owner to provide clear details of its suitability for repairs.

More than 200 families were relocated after the blaze destroyed the building in July last year.

It took firefighters from across the Emirates more than five hours to extinguish the flames. Although there were no fatalities, property damage was extensive and six people were injured.

"Our committee will use their detailed report to pass a ruling of whether we will allow them to repair or demolish the building," Mr Al Mansouri said.

"Already a number of engineers from the owner's chosen consultancy firm are at the site taking samples and making the study."

He said a final decision would be made before the end of the year.

An engineer at the site, who asked not to be identified, said work there had started about a month ago. "At present, we are mostly still cleaning the building," the engineer said. "We need to have it more clear to take samples and make our report."

In earlier statements, a spokesman for the municipality said the building was 32 years old and authorities were looking at revoking its licence and demolishing it.

A police report said the blaze was caused by a cigarette butt on the balcony of a fourth-floor flat and spread through decorations attached to the building.

Fire is a constant threat in the hotter months, especially in the emirate's industrial areas where chemical solvents are stored.

Sharjah experienced some major fires last summer, including one that destroyed five warehouses at the National Paints factory and killed a fireman.

This week, another major blaze, also thought to have been caused by a discarded cigarette butt, tore through a residential tower in Al Khan.

The emirate has launched several fire safety campaigns this year. Among them was a six-month domestic campaign by the Ministry of Interior.

Fire-safety inspectors visited 30,452 houses in Sharjah from last December to the end of last month.

"We found an increase in construction materials like fibreglass, which helps to spread fire," said Brig Marwan Bu Afrah, the deputy director general of Sharjah Civil Defence.

"There were also several safety lapses in the connection of gas and electricity, faulty wiring, lack of maintenance of some buildings and absence of emergency exits in some houses."