x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

No power, so tenants quit fire-hit Sharjah tower block

Tower has been without electricity since a fire two weeks ago.

Despite water and gas supplies, which were also cut, being back on in a few apartments, the building as a whole remains in the dark and without electricity.
Despite water and gas supplies, which were also cut, being back on in a few apartments, the building as a whole remains in the dark and without electricity.

SHARJAH // Two weeks after a fire caused a blackout and all utilities were cut, almost all of the residents of Tower 262 have packed up and moved out.

With temperatures hitting 45 degrees, many of the 170 families who lived in the 14-storey tower in Sharjah's Al Nahda neighbourhood quickly moved in with relatives and friends.

The few who chose to stay, or were unable to find alternative accommodation, were forced to live in blacked-out apartments with no electricity, air conditioning or running water.

"Going through the building corridors, even during the bright days, is as dark as going into a grave," said Husanita Komal, a resident who was busy packing up some basic necessities to move in with friends.

The fire started in an electrical room and was quickly put out by firefighters before it could spread to the rest of the tower.

The electricity supply to the building, known locally as Corniche Al Madina after the large grocery on the ground floor, was disconnected as a safety precaution while crews tackled the blaze. But it was not switched back on.

Despite water and gas supplies, which were also cut, being back on in a few apartments, the building as a whole remains in the dark and without electricity.

Officials from Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority (Sewa) have been working with tenants to disconnect their flats from utility supplies to avoid any bills.

One tenant, who preferred not to give his name, said he was initially reluctant to move because of the cost, but after seeing he was the only person left on his floor he decided to leave as well.

"At first I returned my family back to my home country because when you are alone you can be flexible," he said. "I will stay in a sharing accommodation for some time until I have enough money to sign up to another contract with another building."

Tower 262 is owned by Al Sahawah Real Estate. The company declined to comment, but left a note at the entrance to its offices to apologise for the delay in switching the electricity back on.

"We ask for your patience, tolerance and co-operation with us to fix the problem," the statement read. Demands for information on when the problem would be solved were written in pencil on the letter by angry residents.

The owners have supplied a generator to help operate one of the lifts. However, it is only used sparingly when people need to return to homes on the higher floors to save fuel.

"If there is someone who wants to go up while the lift is off, they would just knock on my door and we switch it back for him or her," said Mohammed, the building's watchman.

He said only a few single men remained in the tower.

Nourshad, who owns the Corniche Al Madina grocery, said he has lost more than Dh30,000 since the power went out, but hoped a rented generator would help him keep his stock fresh and his business running.

A spokesman for Sewa said the power connection problems were probably caused by the fire or a fault in the building.

ykakande@thenational.ae