x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

'Frustrating' slow progress as repairs on Dubai's Tamweel Tower yet to begin

Five months since the blaze, no work has been done since the insurer of the building Arab-Orient accepted liability in January. 

A fire on November 18 last year gutted about a third of the 34-storey Tamweel Tower, forcing tenants to seek alternative rented accommodation until repairs were complete. Pawan Singh / The National
A fire on November 18 last year gutted about a third of the 34-storey Tamweel Tower, forcing tenants to seek alternative rented accommodation until repairs were complete. Pawan Singh / The National

DUBAI // Repairs are yet to begin at Tamweel Tower almost five months after a fire at the residential high-rise left hundreds homeless.

The November 18 fire gutted about a third of the 34-storey building in Jumeirah Lakes Towers, forcing tenants to seek alternative rented accommodation until repairs were complete. But they say no work has been done since the insurer of the building, Arab-Orient, accepted liability in January.

“The process of everything is so slow,” said owner John Cox, who is renting an apartment on Sheikh Zayed Road. “I don’t think anyone knows when the actual restoration will begin. It’s just annoying that the fire was in November, we’re now in April, and when you go to the building it’s still the same as it was when it happened.”

He said he wanted to avoid paying another year’s rent if repairs on the building weren’t finished by December.

“It’s just a bit frustrating. Like everyone else, I don’t want to be out any longer than is necessary.

“I don’t want to have to take out another rental contract after this one expires in December. It’s lost money.”

In the past week, engineers appointed by the insurer have entered the building to assess the damage.

Surendra Nayar, chairman of the Owner’s Association Board, said the inspection would take about six weeks. After that, the insurer would put out a tender for repair work at the building.

If all goes to plan, renovation should begin by the start of summer, he said.

Mr Nayar said he had no idea how much work was required on the building, or how long it would take to fix.

“They haven’t reached a point where they can tell us officially or unofficially the extent of the damage,” he said. “It would be pure guesswork to put a time on it.”

Arab Orient was unavailable for comment on when the building work would be finished.

As an owner, Mr Nayar has been renting an apartment since the fire. He was hopeful that the building work would be finished by the end of the year.

“Do I see myself renewing my rent where I’ve been staying for the first year? I don’t,” he said.

A police report suggested the fire was caused by a discarded cigarette butt that landed in rubbish at the base of the tower. The fire travelled up the length of the building, via the building’s cladding.

As with an estimated 70 per cent of buildings in Dubai, the tower did not have fire-retardant cladding.

Earlier this year Maj Jamal Ibrahim, director of the preventive safety department at Dubai Civil Defence, said that if a building was damaged by fire, new flame-proof cladding should be used to replace damaged panels.

It is not certain whether flame-proof cladding will be used in the repairs on  Tamweel Tower.

Not all owners are keen to move back. Ilham Laullami, whose apartment was destroyed in the blaze, said she might sell once  the repairs were complete.

“I don’t want to come back to that place again, my kids are still suffering from what happened,” she said. “I just want to move on.”

mcroucher@thenational.ae