x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Sharjah acts on need for safer towers

Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed, the emirate's Ruler, has set up a committee to review and oversee safety in high-rise apartment blocks.

SHARJAH // Sharjah has acted to make its residential towers much safer after a series of tragedies and disasters over the past few years.

Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed, the emirate's Ruler, has set up a committee to review and oversee safety in high-rise apartment blocks.

The committee will update safety requirements for towers and set new standards for fire alarms and lifts.

All high-rises will be required to get a certificate of fitness once a year to prove they meet safety requirements, the state news agency Wam reported.

High-rise buildings in the emirate have been the sites of fires and fatal falls in the past few years.

In April, a blaze at Al Tayyer Residential Tower displaced more than 100 families from 408 flats, after another at Al Baker Tower 4 in January displaced 125 families.

Last week a lift in Abu Shagara area collapsed, injuring an Iraqi family of three. And Sharjah Police figures show 12 children fell from tower blocks between 2010 and last year.

The committee will include representatives from Sharjah Police, Civil Defence and other bodies, and will be chaired by the director general of Sharjah Municipality, Sultan Al Mualla.

"Among the strategies we are going to discuss in the committees are new requirements for an attestation of a new or renewed contract," said Mr Al Mualla.

"These requirements should now include proof of maintenance - from painting to the good functioning of all fire-safety equipment in the building."

Residents have welcomed the news, saying landlords needed to be held more accountable with stricter controls.

Yousef Gharib, a resident of Al Majjaz, said he had lived in the same building for three years and had never seen the owners doing repair work, which he said was badly needed.

"Authorities need to start with building owners who think they will just profit from these buildings without doing any repairs," Mr Gharib said.

Another resident, Omar Al Hammadi, said he hoped the committee would consider forcing building owners to replace old air-conditioning units.

A spark from an air conditioner caused a fire that killed six people, including four Emiratis, and gutted a villa in Ajman this month.

"Landlords can afford to install better centralised ACs from the rent tenants pay," Mr Al Hammadi said.

"The officials just need to make it compulsory."

ykakande@thenational.ae