Residents of Dubai tower await extent of fire damage
Much of Zen Tower in Dubai Marina appears to be badly damaged and tenants are living in hotel apartments until they can return
Families who fled a Dubai Marina apartment building that was engulfed in flames on Sunday, face an anxious wait to find out the damage to their homes and belongings.
Dozens of tenants escaped the fire at Zen Tower but it spread through most of the structure within minutes, as high winds fanned the flames in dry, dusty conditions.
No injuries were reported - many tenants were at work at the time - but the tower appears to be badly damaged, with images showing charred balconies and broken windows.
Some described grabbing their passports but are unsure of the extent of the damage to their homes.
Major General Rashid Thani Al Matroushi, head of Dubai Civil Defence, said five residents and several pets trapped in the building had to be rescued by fire crews.
He said the fire started outside the building rather than inside an apartment, but did not specify whether that was on a balcony or elsewhere.
One resident, Mona, who did not want to give her surname, lives on the fourth floor of Zen Tower and said she does not know what has happened to her home or her cat.
She said some residents of the building are staying at Ghaya Grand Hotel in Sports City.
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"They said by tomorrow they're going to call each and every one of us to tell us what happened and what will happen next," she said, on Sunday night.
"There was an alarm and then we saw some smoke so we went straight down [the stairs]."
She said she had been coughing since because of the smoke.
"We just heard strong banging and then it all started, once we were down we heard some explosions.
"Some people were panicking but it was okay."
Resident Araf Mohammed lives on the fifth floor and told The National that he left his apartment and ran down the fire escape when he smelled burning.
"When we came down [the stairs] and there was black smoke everywhere.
"There is damage but thankfully we got out early," he said.
Egyptian Ahmed Mostafa moved in just six weeks ago after arriving from Canada. When he saw flames outside his kitchen he ran for the emergency exit.
"I was in my room and then suddenly the alarm was on, and when I went to the kitchen I saw the fire from the window, from outside so I ran down the stairs.
"When I was outside the main door I saw the smoke coming out of the lobby.
"I only worry about my passport, that's it - other than that I'm fine. Thank God."
The building is close to Sheikh Zayed Road on the Jebel Ali side of the marina.
The Trident Waterfront building was also evacuated, according to residents, who said they feared the flames would spread.
Ezio Patrizi, who lives in Trident, said: "I saw black smoke coming from underneath the building and going up into the air. My daughter and I went outside the balcony and saw the smoke coming from the building and realised the tower [next to us] was on fire.
"Due to the sandstorm the fire spread really, really, really quickly from the ground floor up, in 30, 45 seconds.
"There was glass exploding, debris falling. It was a mess, really frightening.
"We were told to evacuate; of course we heard the sirens from the apartment. I ran down the stairs and alerted the other people.
"The building security were shouting 'come down, come down'.
Community spirit was in strong supply, as bottles of water were handed out to those left standing by the roadside.
Parked cars remain covered in ash, soot and debris from the fire. Although civil defence crews had extinguished flames the building was still smouldering at 1pm as dampening down operations continued.
Many fled the buildings wearing just the clothes on their back and it appeared unlikely they would be able to return soon.
The focal point for evacuees from Zen Tower and the surrounding buildings was the nearby Trocadero Cafe. It has been providing a vital service to those facing an anxious wait.
An outdoor seating area at the cafe acted as a makeshift check point for residents, signing out from the building and passing their details on to authorities to be informed about what happens next.
Scores of police and emergency workers were on the scene to help people affected and to control the area.
Hasan Siddiqui, 29, from the United States, lives in Trident.
“I’m on the 19th floor in the penthouse and there was a lot of smoke coming into my apartment,” said Mr Siddiqui, who runs his own tech business.
“I left everything and just ran down the stairs as it was so windy we were worried the fire could spread.
“When we got downstairs I saw two cars explode, one was small and the other looked like a Pajero or something.
“They were parked right infront of Zen Tower, and behind them on the first floor there looked to be a propane tank of some kind.
“The tank blew up first and that went into the cars.
“I haven’t see anyone injured, just a dog that was running near the building with a limp, so he could have been hit by something.
“Another person nearby looked to be choking on the smoke, but that was it.
“The fire trucks came pretty quickly. Luckily I have insurance for my place, I have seven cars and two Jet Skis there.
“The wind was strong but it was blowing in the right direction, otherwise my building would have gone up for sure.”
Updated: May 14, 2018 01:18 PM