x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Hundreds moved as warehouses burn in Sharjah

Paint company buildings destroyed as more than 250 firefighters tackle blaze which sparks traffic chaos for workers.

Flames and smoke pour from a burning National Paints Factory in Al Dhaid road, Al Sharjah.
Flames and smoke pour from a burning National Paints Factory in Al Dhaid road, Al Sharjah.

SHARJAH // A huge fire ripped through four paint warehouses yesterday, forcing police to evacuate homes and businesses and shepherd hundreds of people to safety. It took more than five hours for firefighters to extinguish the blaze at National Paints. One firefighter and one worker suffered minor burns. Both were discharged from hospital after treatment. A firefighting vehicle went up in smoke.

More than 20 residential and business buildings were evacuated. Among those moved were about 100 workers in National Paints accommodation. Workshops, warehouses and offices remained closed. The fire, which started around 9.30am, was fed by highly flammable materials, such as paint and chemicals, said Col Waheed al Serkal, the director of Sharjah Civil Defence. Smoke could be seen as far away as Garhoud in Dubai and Julfa in Ajman.

"All firefighters in the country are here, from Abu Dhabi to Ras Khaimah, Dubai, Al Ain and Ajman," said Col al Serkal. "We have more than 250 firefighters here. It's the biggest fire we have seen this year." Major Gen Hamid al Hudaidi, the director general of Sharjah Police, said the area around the warehouses was cordoned off and the authorities drew up a plan to prevent the fire spreading to nearby factories and residences. A mobile hospital was set up in anticipation of injuries or cases of smoke inhalation.

An employee of a UAE Exchange outlet, which had to shut for the day, said: "Before we knew about the fire, police [were] already asking us to vacate the building and close the exchange immediately. We moved out to see a big fire in our neighbourhood." Emirates and Maliha roads were among routes that were closed to allow firefighters easy access to the scene of the blaze, said Col Ahmed bin Darwish, the head of Sharjah Police's patrol unit.

Up to 20 patrols were deployed to control traffic and direct motorists to alternative roads, he added. However, the closure of Emirates Road caused traffic chaos, leaving many people late for work as they struggled to find alternative routes. "I spent 30 minutes moving around to find a right road to Dubai," said Hussein Hilal, 30, an Iraqi who works in Dubai. "Every road I reached was closed and patrol police could only advise to go back."

Fire experts were on the scene to help determine the cause of the blaze, said Abdullah Sultan al Mullah, a spokesman for Sharjah Police. "We have set up a committee to help investigate the fire," he said. "The committee includes firefighters, police officials and officials from the Ministry of Interior from Abu Dhabi. "In a few days, they should be able to make a report on the causes and recommendations of how similar fires can be avoided in the future."

Some of those evacuated said they had learned a lesson from previous fires and knew what to take with them. One worker, who identified himself as Rochie, said two years ago his old company accommodation in the Sajja industrial area was gutted by fire. "We were not given new mattresses and for three days we had no accommodation," he said. "This time, if the same happens, I will at least have my mattress and can sleep anywhere." ykakande@thenational.ae

March 2010 Two warehouses gutted and 20 are damaged after fire breaks out at oil based lubricants warehouse in the Industrial Area. October 2009 The warehouse of a carpet factory at the Sharjah Airport International Free Zone is destroyed. June 2009 Two furniture factories in the Industrial Area are ravaged. March and April 2009 Two warehouses gutted in the Industrial Area. 2008 A football stadium, two construction sites and two Industrial Area sites all severely damaged.