At least 12 people were wounded after a fire broke out in a residential tower in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday night, the UAE’s Interior Ministry has said.
Firefighters brought the fire under control in the 48-storey Abbco Tower in Sharjah’s Al Nahda area on Tuesday night, Sharjah’s government media office said.
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Authorities gave no cause for the blaze, which smouldered into early Wednesday morning.
The blaze saw flaming debris shower neighbouring dusty parking lots and left metal siding littering surrounding streets.
Firefighters used a ladder truck to spray water into the building, while its cement-block walls stood charred and exposed after the fire.
Civil Defence teams brought the blaze under control after two hours and the high-rise building was evacuated, according to Gulf News.
One side of the building was almost entirely damaged, the report said.
Local authorities said the Sharjah Civil Defence (SCD) teams were quick to prevent the situation from escalating, local media reported.
The SCD said the fire started around 9pm local time (17:00 GMT), according to the Gulf News newspaper.
Fire breaks out in Sharjah building
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Syrian Fadlallah Hassoun, who had just finished his day’s iftar meal in his apartment in the tower, told The Associated Press he initially dismissed the fire alarm as a test. He cradled his white cat Vodka, which he rescued from the building.
“Me and family just directly went down with everything we just had and what we were just wearing and we came down immediately,” Hassoun said.
Many others similarly left the building with nothing other than their face masks required in the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Hassoun praised authorities for swiftly offering help.
“They took our names so that they can see what they can do for us and help us because now we came out and we have no idea what we are going to do,” he said. “We are just waiting in the street and seeing what’s going to happen.”
Khaleej Times said at least five buildings near the engulfed residential tower were evacuated while several cars in the area were damaged by the falling debris.
The UAE, including the skyscraper-studded emirate of Dubai, has suffered a spate of fires in its high-rises in recent years.
Building and safety experts blame a material used for the buildings’ sidings, aluminium composite panel cladding, for the blazes. While some types of cladding can be made with fire-resistant material, experts say those that have caught fire in the UAE and elsewhere were not designed to meet stricter safety standards and were often put onto buildings without any breaks to slow or halt a possible blaze.
Pieces seen on the ground afterwards resembled that material and the speed of the blaze suggested the tower may have been clad in it.