x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Residents of Dubai's Tamweel Tower relive fire ordeal

Residents who fled the fire in Jumeirah Lakes Towers which gutted half of Tamweel Tower talk about their narrow escape.

The residential tower in Jumeirah Lakes Towers on fire during the blaze which left hundreds homeless. Kaveh Kashani / AP Photo
The residential tower in Jumeirah Lakes Towers on fire during the blaze which left hundreds homeless. Kaveh Kashani / AP Photo

DUBAI // Residents who fled their burning tower block in Jumeirah Lakes Towers described their horror yesterday.

The blaze, which started on the roof of the 34-floor Tamweel Tower at about 1.30 yesterday morning, gutted half of the building.

Residents were evacuated about half an hour later as the fire spread down the facade of the building.

One resident, who declined to be named, said he grabbed his two sons, aged one and three, and ran as soon as he saw the fire.

None of them had time even to put on their shoes.

"I could see a curtain of fire across all of the windows in my flat. I knew we had to get out as soon as we could," he said.

After dropping his family off at a friend's house in Jumeirah, he went to a mall to buy new clothes.

Asif Sayed, a taxi driver who was in the area at the time of the fire, picked up a family who had walked around the lake in bare feet after escaping from the building. "They were wearing basically nothing, just their sleeping clothes," he said.

One home owner, who wished to be identified only as Sheila, said fire fighters had initially been unable to battle the blaze because it was so high.

"I could see it burning my flat, and no one seemed to be doing anything about it," she said.

"It was a horrible feeling, to see your flat, your life, going up in smoke."

Flaming debris from the roof rained down on residents as they gathered in the car park of the building.

"It was incredibly dangerous," said Tamara Ballan, from Canada. "These flaming aluminium sheets were flying off the building and hitting the cars in the car park.

"There was no supervision from police or the fire brigade, it was just up to us to make sure we wouldn't get hit."

A Civil Defence spokesman said fire teams from six stations arrived at the scene at 1.51am .

"They were able to control and limit the fire at about 8.19am so that it did not spread to other buildings," the organisation said in a statement.

No one was injured in the blaze and there was no update on the possible cause of it.

Fire alarms went off at 2am, apparently after a resident notified security.

"By the time the alarms went off, the fire was well under way," said Marwan Magassi, a Canadian resident.

"Also the alarms were very quiet, it took us about 10 minutes to realise there was a fire."

By 3am, evacuated residents were gathered in Almas Tower, and were assigned accommodation in nearby hotels including the Bonnington and the Mövenpick.

A statement from the building developer Tamweel said the company would "remain wholly focused on the safety and well-being of the residents and staff".

A Tamweel official, who declined to be named, said it would cover residents' hotel costs until it reached agreement with its insurer on alternative accommodation.

A spokesman for the master developer DMCC confirmed it was also helping to arrange accommodation.

"The relevant authorities are on site and are managing the situation," he added.

However, many residents remained uncertain how long that would continue.

"I'll deal with it when the shock wears off in two days," said one resident.

mcroucher@thenational.ae