x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Sharjah tenants give up on compensation fight after Al Tayer Tower fire

Fire Safety: Almost 400 families were left homeless after the fire at the Al Tayer Tower in Sharjah in April.

SHARJAH // Tenants left homeless by a fire at Al Tayer Tower in April have given up their fight for compensation.

After taking their case to the municipality, police, courts and the Ruler's office with no success, they have decided to cut their losses.

A former resident, Joe James, said lawyers had asked for money in advance to take on the tenants' case, but families who had lost almost all of their belongings in the fire were unwilling to pay out more.

"People lost everything and were not willing to possibly lose more money undertaking a complicated legal case they were not sure would get them justice," he said. "Everyone has now accepted the loss. There are losses in life and if this was the first, it may not be the last."

About 400 families were left homeless when the blaze, thought to have been caused by a discarded cigarette, ripped through the 40-storey building in Al Nahda in the early hours of the morning.

Many tenants did not have insurance for their apartments and pushed for the building's owners, Distinguished Real Estate (DRE), to cover their losses.

But they were told by DRE's insurers, Arab Orient Insurance, that because the company had not caused the fire, it was not liable to pay compensation.

The tower's owners argued that whoever discarded the cigarette was liable. That person has never been identified, prompting tenants to take up their legal case.

Mirza Baig, another former resident, said he had learnt a lot of lessons from the fire, which left him homeless.

"It's simple," he said. "Never stay again in a cladding building and where you stay, never buy expensive items and keep them in your flat.

"It's that simple, if you don't want to regret afterwards and start fighting losing battles with powerful companies for compensation once the building is gutted."

Rohit Phillip said he had rented another flat in Al Nahda and now wanted to move on with his life.

"This year gave me the worst experience ever," he said. "I'm just praying nothing close to that happens to me or anyone else ever again."

Ramshesh Katepur, one of the tenants who opted to return to their apartments in Al Tayer in October after the building was reopened, said a fire-safety system was in place and life was back to normal.

"I'm staying here right now and have no plans on shifting so soon," he said. "I'm trying to move on with life."

ykakande@thenational.ae