x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Workers still overcrowd Dubai villas

Overcrowding in about 4,000 villas that housed multiple families has been stamped out, but the problem has persisted elsewhere and a campaign by the municipality is continuing, the chief building inspector said.

A view of the villa in the Naif district where 11 people died and dozens were injured in a fire last August.
A view of the villa in the Naif district where 11 people died and dozens were injured in a fire last August.

DUBAI // Overcrowding in about 4,000 villas that housed multiple families has been stamped out, but the problem has persisted elsewhere and a campaign by the municipality is continuing, the chief building inspector said yesterday.

After warning people against sharing villas in Dubai, the Government began last July to evict families and bachelors who were flouting the law by crowding into houses, sometimes 20 to a room. "We continue to crack down on villas that house multiple families, which is a huge safety risk, said Omar Mohammed Abdul Rahman, head of the building inspection section at Dubai Municipality. "The idea behind the campaign is to ensure safety of people.

Our inspectors are conducting their routine inspections and cutting off water and electricity when required." He dismissed reports that the campaign had ended, and said inspectors were checking more than 150 villas a week. "If violators are found, we take action against them," said Mr Rahman. A fine of Dh50,000 (US$13,000) was imposed on one villa owner and some tenants have also been fined after defying eviction orders. Mr Rahman did not say how many people had been fined.

The campaign gained momentum when a fire ripped through an overcrowded villa in the Naif district last Aug 26, killing 11 people and injuring dozens more. The two-storey villa was said to have been occupied by about 500 people, who were crammed into small rooms. Six months later the building remains closed and empty, but several other villas nearby still house dozens of people. The burnt villa is a stark reminder to its neighbours about the risks of overcrowding.

Many of the men living in neighbouring villas tried to douse the flames. However, most of them refuse to talk about the tragedy because they are afraid of attracting attention to themselves. "We do not want to draw any attention to it. We will be thrown out of our house if we talk about it," a resident said. Others in the area confirmed that villas continue to house dozens of people despite the fire. Bed space in the area is available from Dh250 to Dh300 a month, he said.

Dubai Municipality has instructed bachelors living in overcrowded villas to move to labour accommodation in areas such as Sonapur and Al Quoz. Higher-paid bachelors and families are allowed to share accommodation as long as it is not overcrowded. "We maintain that families can share flats but no alteration should be made in the rooms and there should be no overcrowding," Mr Rahman said.

pmenon@thenational.ae