x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Two die in Abu Dhabi apartment fire

At least two people are dead and 32 injured after a blaze swept through an Abu Dhabi apartment block this morning.

Fire fighters battle the blaze that claimed the lives of at least two people.
Fire fighters battle the blaze that claimed the lives of at least two people.

ABU DHABI // Two people have died and 32 more were injured after an early morning fire in the Tourist Club area of the capital today. One of the dead was named at the scene as Raja Mohammed Azin, a 60-year-old from Pakistan. A relative said he had a wife and four daughters.

The blaze at the Saif Hashed al Qabaisi building, just behind the International Rotana Inn in Hamdan Street, started shortly after 12am and burned through all eight floors. It is believed to have started in an electrical room on the ground floor in which rubbish had been dumped.

Fire fighters used three fire engines with elevated hoses and crews on the ground to tackle the flames from opposite sides of the building, which sustained significant damage. The fire was most severe at the top of the building, where it had spread to the entire width and depth of the block. The flames were extinguished by the emergency services at 2.30am and a crane was used to retrieve the bodies of the dead at 10am.

Abu Dhabi Police confirmed this afternoon that two people had died of smoke inhalation and a further 32 were injured. Twenty one people received hospital treatment. A police officer at the scene, Faisal Abdullah, said he saw people jumping from as high up as the fourth floor to escape the flames and fumes.

"People were being taken to hospital with burns and injuries from jumping out of the building," he said. "They were in shock and coughing ... about 35 of them went to hospital."

Musharif Hussein, 20, a cleaner from Bangladesh, jumped from the second floor to escape the flames with his three flatmates.

They were released from hospital this morning and, with nowhere else to go, the four slept on the floor in a nearby shop. "I am alright, but not my friends," he said nodding to his sleeping companions, one of whom had broken an ankle trying to escape last night's flames. The first floor was on fire. We were on the second floor so we jumped."

Nasir Ahmed, 25, from Pakistan was on the first floor when the flames broke out. He took nothing with him and was one of the only survivors to escape via the stairwell before it was engulfed in smoke and flame. "When I first saw the flame, I came down. No luggage," he said. "I did have time but I save first my life." He was one of dozens of survivors who spent the night on the street outside the burnt out building.

The buildings owner confirmed to The National that he had sought a demolition order but had been in dispute over the last two years with a number of the tenants over their continued occupancy of the building. A number of people remained outside this morning following the evacuation of the building, and said many of their possessions, such as travel documents and visas, remained inside. An investigation is underway into the exact cause of the fire.

pdriscoll@thenational.ae

jgerson@thenational.ae