x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Victims of Sharjah fire camp out in park tents

Only 35 families could be found alternative accommodation in hotels with no assurance of when they might be allowed to return.

A spokesman for Sharjah Charity said it had been overwhelmed by the numbers needing accommodation.
A spokesman for Sharjah Charity said it had been overwhelmed by the numbers needing accommodation.

SHARJAH // Residents of a tower block gutted by a fire that ripped through all 40 floors were homeless for a second night last night.

Many others camped for the night at nearby Nahda Park, where Sharjah Charity and Red Crescent set up three tents. Others spent the night in their cars, or paid for hotels from their own pockets.

All the occupants of Al Tayer tower were forced to flee the building on Saturday when the fire destroyed 102 of the block's 408 apartments, Police said yesterday the building was still unsafe, despite previous assurances that those whose homes were unaffected would be allowed to return by 6pm last night.

"They should be patient as it is for their own good to stay away from the building until it is safe," said Col Ibrahim Abdullah Al Rabea of Sharjah Police.

"They will be allowed to enter as soon as the building is confirmed safe."

He gave no indication of when this might be.

Many residents said they would be too scared to return even if they were allowed.

Divya Jayesh, who saw burning insulation panels fall from the building's walls on to cars below and ignite them on impact, said she could not bring herself to return, although her apartment was declared safe.

She said there were a number of safety violations at the building, including extinguishers that did not work. Fire alarms were so frequent that tenants no longer took note of them.

"All I want is to be allowed inside to pack my things and go elsewhere," she said.

Other residents, such as Abdul Kareem Khan, who was forced to stay in his car although his apartment was not affected by the fire, voiced anger that the building's owners had not paid to accommodate the displaced tenants.

While the Red Crescent and Sharjah Charity intervened to provide emergency accommodation in hotels and the tents in the park, this accommodation was only for those whose flats were destroyed.

A spokesman for Sharjah Charity said it had been overwhelmed by the numbers needing accommodation. They accommodated 35 families on the first night and he hoped more accommodation would become available.

Other tenants called for greater action by the authorities.

"If you live in an emirate where there are shortages of electricity every summer and now fires, people cannot rest in the middle of night," said a tenant who identified himself only as Mustafa.

He stayed with friends on Saturday night because his flat was destroyed by the fire, and hopes to continue staying with them because he was not yet allowed to return.

Firemen finished cooling the building yesterday and forensic experts from Sharjah Police moved in to investigate the cause of the fire.

"We have completed most of our work, went through each and every room to confirm that there was no loss of life at all," said Brigadier Abdullah Saeed Al Suwaidi, the director general of Sharjah Civil Defence.

Brig Al Suwaidi said tenants whose cars were destroyed should go to police for papers to make compensation claims from insurance companies. About 45 cars were destroyed in the fire.

ykakande@thenational.ae