Yesternight, a high-rise tower caught fire in the United Arab Emirates in a city-state called Sharja neighbouring the famous Dubai. The 48-story Abbco Tower in Sharjah saw flaming debris shower neighbouring dusty parking lots and left metal siding littering surrounding streets.
— Reuters (@Reuters) May 6, 2020
The 190-meter (623-foot) tower is among the tallest buildings in Sharjah, one of the seven sheikhdoms that make up the UAE. Nine people sustained minor injuries and were treated on-site, Gulf News reported.
According to the newspaper, the fire broke out on the 10th floor of the tower just after 9pm. Sharjah police used a drone to check if there were people trapped inside the burning tower. Firefighters and police surrounded the tower, as did curious onlookers.
Jahanzib Jameel, a resident who lives in the tower, feared he had lost everything, as he had no home and content insurance.
“I only picked my wallet as my thoughts were on trying to get my wife and children out of the apartment,” he told Gulf News.
Amna Adil, a Pakistani expat who lives on the 36th floor said she and her husband and two children aged 10 and 15 had finished Iftar and were sitting in the hall chatting when her friend who lives opposite came and said the building was on fire.
At first the family took their Emirates ID cards passports and face masks and took the lift but then they changed their mind and decided to get out at the 20th floor to take the stairs down to the ground.
“We don’t know where we will stay the next few days. Right now we are waiting in the car park for the fire to be doused,” she added.
Petal Jaison, who lives in the next door Sahara Plaza, said the fumes were blowing into her building.
“The entire building was on fire. A smaller building next has also caught fire. Sharjah Police and firefighters were inside trying to douse the fire. At 10.40pm she said the building was still on fire. Residents and those in the shops below have been evacuated,” she said.
The tower was built in 2006. Thirty six of the floors are residential, with 12 apartments on each level. Authorities offered no immediate cause for the blaze.
The UAE, including skyscraper-studded Dubai, has suffered a spate of fires in its high-rises in recent years.
The reason for the blazes, building and safety experts say, is the material used for the buildings’ sidings, called aluminium composite panel cladding.
While some types of cladding can be made with fire-resistant material, experts say those that have caught fire in the UAE and elsewhere weren’t designed to meet stricter safety standards.
The materials were often were put onto buildings without any breaks to slow or halt a possible blaze.