A fire broke out in an apartment building in an old neighborhood of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, killing at least 16 people and injuring nine others, officials said on Sunday.
A fire broke out on Saturday in the Al Murar area of Dubai’s historic Deira neighborhood in an apartment believed to be shared by several individuals, a common practice for the laborers who power the economy in this city-state that is home to its vast city-state. More known for skyscrapers. But tight quarters, often subdivided by temporary barriers of plywood, drywall or shower curtains, can pose a greater risk in a fire.
A statement by the Dubai Civil Defense issued by the city-state’s media office gave the death toll. Officials did not respond to questions from The Associated Press.
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Naseer Vatanapalli, a Dubai-based businessman who volunteers with the Indian consulate on repatriation issues, told the AP that authorities identified the dead as six Sudanese, four Indians, three Pakistanis, one Cameroonian, one Egyptian and one Jordanian. is of. He said that the police is working on the paperwork to send the mortal remains of the deceased to their home state.
Pakistan Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif said online that he was “deeply saddened” at the death of the three Pakistanis.
“I express my heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families on the tragedy (and) have directed Pakistan’s mission in the UAE to extend assistance to the affected families,” Sharif said.
On Sunday, four signs could be seen on the five-story apartment building, a grocery store, a smoke shop and other businesses on its ground floor. Yellow police crime scene tape surrounded the building, which still had a heavy police presence. Huge Airbus A380s and Boeing 777s owned by long-haul carrier Emirates roar overhead as the neighborhood is located just 3 kilometers (2 miles) from Dubai International Airport along its flight path.
On many neighboring balconies, a wardrobe’s worth of clothes can be seen hanging – a common practice when closets are converted into living spaces for workers sharing an apartment that was initially designed for a single family . It is seen throughout Deira, which lies along the Dubai Creek and is also home to its gold and spice markets, a major tourist attraction of the city.
A person working nearby at the time of the fire started the fire on Saturday afternoon. He told the AP there was an explosion, like a gas cylinder catching fire, followed by thick black smoke. Coinciding with video posted on social media of flames pouring out of the apartment as firefighters arrived on the scene on Saturday, at least one person inside the building was seen waving a white shirt from a balcony to signal rescuers.
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The man said neighbors believed people were sleeping inside at the time, something typical for the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan when the faithful abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset.
A Dubai police officer stopped an AP reporter from speaking to the man before revealing his name and told the reporter to leave the area.
In a statement from Dubai Civil Defence, the fire is said to have started from the fourth floor. However, char marks could be seen on the fifth floor, where glass was blown out by the fire.
“Preliminary investigations have shown that the building’s lack of compliance with safety and security requirements led to the fire,” the statement said. “The relevant authorities are conducting a comprehensive investigation to provide a detailed report on the cause of the fire”.
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The statement was not detailed. The building’s management declined to answer any questions when reached by AP, citing the ongoing police investigation. It was not immediately clear who owned the building.
Dubai has suffered skyscraper fires in recent years caused by flammable siding materials. However, other fires can occur in warehouses and smaller structures, especially in summer when temperatures are above 45 °C (113 °F). On Saturday, Dubai recorded a maximum temperature of 28 degrees Celsius (82 degrees Fahrenheit) with strong winds.
Illegal apartment subdivisions have been a problem in Dubai for decades, at a time when the city-state was witnessing a real estate boom and economic growth such as it is experiencing now. Authorities have launched action in the past, but landlords persist in offering divided apartments as workers from Africa, Asia and the Middle East try to save every penny to send back home.
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