Dubai fire: ‘My brother went to help and never came back’

Four Indians and three Pakistanis among 16 people killed in Deira building blaze

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Grieving relatives and friends of 16 people killed in a fire on the fourth floor of a building in Deira, Dubai, have described terrifying scenes as smoke billowed out of apartments.

A couple from Kerala and two men from Tamil Nadu were among at least four Indians killed after the fire broke out in a residential neighbourhood packed with restaurants and tailor shops off Al Khaleej Street on Saturday afternoon.

Of at least two women killed, one was visiting from Cameroon, according to relatives and volunteer workers assisting in the repatriation of bodies.

Gudu Saliyakoondu, 48, a watchman from India’s Tamil Nadu state, died as he was trying to save residents trapped inside the building, said his brother Salinga Gudu.

He kept calling and saying, 'Save us, save us,' then the phone got cut. All my cousins died
Muhammad Bilal

“He was not just my younger brother, he is a piece of my heart,” the elder brother told The National.

“I’m crying and crying and wish I could have stopped him from going up to help people.”

‘My brother went to help and never came back’

Mr Gudu, 55, an embroiderer, rushed from his home in a neighbouring building when he heard shouts of “fire”.

“I saw so much smoke and heard a loud blast,” he said. “There were flames and smoke pouring out of some apartments.

“I was so scared because that is the building my brother works in. He went up to help and never came back down.”

He spoke to Mr Saliyakoondu’s friends, who said his brother had rushed when a resident told him of a fire in the building.

Gudu Saliyakoondu, a building security guard from Tamil Nadu state in southern India, died in a fire in an apartment block in Deira, as he tried to save the lives of residents. Photo: Gudu family

“My brother went to help people, to save them,” he said. “Then, he came down to get a fire extinguisher to put out the fire that was inside a room.

“His friends told him not to go back because it was too hot. If I was there, I would not have allowed him to go up again.

“I would have told him it was too dangerous, that there was too much smoke. There was smoke everywhere and people could not get out.”

Sixteen dead and nine injured in Dubai fire

Sixteen dead and nine injured in Dubai fire

Calls for help from victims

Mohammed Jamil, a cousin of three Pakistanis who died in the fire, is traumatised after learning of their deaths.

Mr Jamil worked with his cousins Muhammad Bilal and Umar Farooq in a project management company. Muhammad Sajjad, another relative, was employed by an air-conditioner repair firm.

All three men were in the room when the blaze engulfed the floor.

Minutes before the fire, Mr Bilal, who had completed a night shift, spoke to Mr Jamil outside the building.

“We stay in the same building. We had finished the night shift, and he said he would go upstairs to rest for a few hours,” Mr Jamil told The National.

“After 10 minutes, Bilal called saying, ‘There is a fire, help us, save us.’”

“I could do nothing. We were not allowed to go up.”

Other residents and fire safety officials prevented residents from entering the building to ensure their safety.

Mr Jamil cannot forget his cousin's final words.

“He kept calling and saying, 'Save us, save us,' then the phone got cut. All my cousins died.

“I have been crying and crying since yesterday. I keep remembering what happened.”

The men were from Dera Ghazi Khan in south-west Pakistan.

Grieving families back home

A painter from southern Tamil Nadu state and a couple from Kerala in India were also among the victims.

Witnesses said Rijesh Kalangadan, 38, a manager with a tourism company located near the burning building, rushed in to save his wife Jeshi Kandamangalath, 32, but neither survived.

An Indian painter from Tamil Nadu, Imam Kasim Khader, 42, also died in the fire.

An official from the Indian consulate confirmed the names of the four Indians who died.

“The consulate is in close contact with concerned authorities and will extend all possible assistance in documentation required in connection with release of dead bodies,” the official said.

“Once the families decide if they want to do the last rites here or in India and we will provide all and any assistance they require.”

Volunteers assisting the families with repatriation said the remaining victims included one person from Cameroon and four from Sudan.

Volunteers assisting the families with repatriation said the remaining victims included six from Sudan and one person each from Cameroon, Egypt and Jordan.

Dubai Civil Defence said 16 people died and nine were injured.

Authorities said poor safety standards were the cause of the blaze and an investigation was under way.

“Preliminary investigations showed that lack of compliance with building security and safety requirements caused the fire,” a civil defence statement said.

“Relevant authorities are conducting a comprehensive investigation to provide a detailed a report on the causes of the accident.”

Authorities asked owners of residential and commercial buildings to comply with safety guidelines to prevent accidents and protect lives.

Updated: April 17, 2023, 4:16 PM