Abu Dhabi apartment blaze kills father and three-year-old daughter

A nearby hospital emergency plan was activated in the event, while in separate incident, a man jumps to his death from the ninth floor of a blazing building.

The Electra Street blaze started on the 15th floor of the 18-storey building. Ambulances treated 10 victims on site, and took five to Sheikh Khalifa Medical City. Sammy Dallal / The National
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ABU DHABI // A father and his three-year-old daughter died yesterday when fire ripped through their apartment building.

Six people, three of them Civil Defence staff, were taken to hospital after the blaze in Al Sadaf tower on Electra Street, next to the New Medical Centre speciality hospital in Abu Dhabi city centre.

In a separate incident, a man jumped to his death from the ninth floor of a blazing building in the Tourist Club area. Fifteen people were injured in that fire.

The Electra Street blaze started on the 15th floor of the 18-storey building. Ambulances treated 10 victims on site, and took five to Sheikh Khalifa Medical City.

The fire claimed the lives of Aatif, 39, a Palestinian, and his daughter, Ward.

The dead man’s father Abu Aatif escaped the blaze along with his granddaughter, 12. Later the grief-stricken man sat outside the building in a wheelchair, weeping as relatives gathered to console him.

Tom Louis, group communications manager for NMC, said: “It really was a very big fire and I think praise deserves to go to the fire department who responded very quickly.

“The firefighters did an exceptional job. They evacuated the building very quickly.”

The hospital put its emergency plan into action when it was alerted to the blaze. “We are extremely close to where the fire happened and we knew that a lot of injured people would be coming to the hospital,” Mr Louis said. “We were extremely busy all morning.”

NMC treated a couple of people suffering from smoke inhalation and some minor injuries. Victims with burns were taken to another hospital, Mr Louis said.

As police and Civil Defence rescue teams evacuated the building, NMC workers set up an evacuation zone in a community centre at the hospital to provide a place for those residents who were uninjured but needed somewhere to stay.

“It was getting very hot and people were also upset,” Mr Louis said. “It was our community duty to do so and we provided food and beverages for them.”

By 2.45pm, the police allowed residents to return to their homes.

Col Mohammed Ibrahim Al Amri, director of the emergency and public safety department at Abu Dhabi Police, said the quick response by Civil Defence helped to reduce the death toll and keep the fire from spreading.

Investigations are under way to determine the cause of the fire.

One building resident, Prudence, came home from work after hearing the news. “I live on the 13th floor and there was no damage on our floor. The fire caught on the 15th and upper floors,” she said.

Another 14th-floor resident said: “My family was with us inside the apartment but we remained unhurt. I don’t know much about how it happened. But all the building has been evacuated by the police.”

Laura Evans, 20, an Australian, witnessed the aftermath. “The staff at NMC hospital were responding as well; some people had gone into the hospital for smoke inhalation. It looked pretty difficult for the fire trucks to get in and manoeuvre, especially with so many people who’d decided to stop and watch.”

Ms Evans said a number of helicopters arrived shortly after the fire to help in the evacuation of the building.

“I imagine they might have been there to help get people out, it’s an old building and there’s not a lot of room in the street behind it,” she said.

Civil Defence Capt Abdullah Al Tamimi urged the public not to crowd the scene of an accident, which could hamper rescue operations and traffic movement.

Nikolai Kozak, 20, from Chile, said: “I was on the 15th floor of my apartment building when I began to hear few sirens.

“I thought nothing of it, until the wailing of the firetrucks became constant. I peeked out of my window, and the first thing I see is a police helicopter planted smack in the middle of the cemetery besides NMC and around it was a ton of firetrucks, a sea of stretchers, and a huge audience. The sidestreets around Safa [supermarket] were overflowing with people.”

View Abu Dhabi fire on Electra Street in a larger map