x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Police quiz Sharjah fire flat tenants

A disagreement has arisen over the number of units that were destroyed with a director at the company responsible for Al Tayer Tower claiming that only 20 flats were gutted.

Tenants whose flats were gutted were briefly allowed into their homes to collect what belongings were left, but were advised not to stay long.
Tenants whose flats were gutted were briefly allowed into their homes to collect what belongings were left, but were advised not to stay long.

SHARJAH // The Indian family who lived in the flat where a fire began that devastated a tower block were yesterday being quizzed by police.

Preliminary investigations show that the blaze broke out in flat 108, an official said. Officers are now looking into the exact cause.

A disagreement has arisen over the number of units that were gutted.

Haytham Mohammed Ali, director of technical affairs at Distinguished Real Estate, the company responsible for Al Tayer Tower, said it had established that only 20 flats were gutted, on the third, fourth and fifth floors.

He said discussions over tenants' compensation would begin soon.

"We have asked everyone to go to Buhairah police station and write down a list of what was lost in their flat," said Mr Ali. "A police official was coming around [yesterday and today] to investigate the loss claims as submitted to them."

Hafiz Mohammed, a tenant, questioned Mr Ali's assertion that only 20 flats were destroyed.

Mr Mohammed said he lived on the eighth floor in flat number 809 and had almost nothing left. He went to the building yesterday to collect the few belongings remaining in his two-bedroom flat.

"See these bags? This is all I have from my apartment," Mr Mohammed said. "I still cannot comprehend where to start a new life - even my car was partly gutted from the parking."

Mr Mohammed is staying with a cousin until he can find a new home to rent for his family.

Tenants who had been sleeping in tents or their cars after the fire were told that Distinguished Real Estate was willing to pay for hotels - to a point.

A notice placed at the tower yesterday read: "We will provide cost of alternative stay in a hotel or apartment at a cost of Dh300 per day. The total cost will be reimbursed by specific number of days of free stay during the renewal time or will be paid in cash in case of vacating the flat. Kindly keep the original receipt."

The offer was taken up by many families who had been left homeless, although some tenants complained that a single hotel room was not big enough for families accustomed to living in two-bedroom apartments.

"We are five adults in my family, how can we stay in the one room for Dh300?" one tenant asked.

At about noon yesterday, residents whose flats had not been damaged were allowed to return home. They could stay if they wished, even though the building remained without power.

Rashmi Khan, from flat 1605, said he decided to collect some essential items and would return when the water and electricity were turned back on.

Tenants whose flats were gutted were briefly allowed into their homes to collect what belongings were left, but were advised not to stay long.

The fire broke out on the first floor of the 40-storey, 408-flat tower at about 2am on Saturday.

ykakande@thenational.ae