ABU DHABI // A suspected gas explosion ripped through a building in the capital’s Al Khalidiya neighbourhood on Monday forcing residents to flee.
The explosion, which caused a fire, happened about noon on the mezzanine floor of Al Mansoori building in Daratul Miya.
Fifteen people were left with minor to moderate injuries, including smoke inhalation. All were taken to hospital.
A Civil Defence member suffered heat exhaustion, the Ministry of Interior said. Ten vehicles parked near by were damaged, as were shop displays.
A video posted by the ministry showed the extent of the damage. Building windows were blown out, the street was littered with debris and nearby vehicles were badly damaged.
It showed fire crews dousing the building and emergency crews lifting children to safety.
Resident Jean Tabian, 45, rushed downstairs and outside after hearing the blast.
“I grabbed my bag from my bed and panicked after seeing the fire spread in our living room,” she said. “At about 12.20pm there was another blast. The windows broke and I ran barefoot outside.”
She was treated by paramedics for cuts to her feet.
“I’m still in shock,” Ms Tabian said. “I forgot to put my wallet and mobile phone in my bag.”
Seventy-eight residents of the area were put up in a hotel in Abu Dhabi by the Red Crescent Society as ordered by Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed, the Ruler’s Representative in the Western Region.
“People affected were transported to a hotel in Abu Dhabi that the Authority works and deals with during such incidents to ensure that the families are housed comfortably,” the Red Crescent said.
Many residents fled with only the clothes on their backs. Ms Tabian’s flatmate, Jason Abece, said: “We might not get all our things back. My clothes, wallet, mobile phone ... everything.”
Police cordoned off the area and residents and workers were told they could not re-enter until clearance was given by police.
“I heard the loud blast and people screaming and running,” said a 26-year-old Egyptian woman who worked in the nearby Tanja Laundry building.
Civil Defence received a report of fire at 12.07pm and four response teams were dispatched to the scene, along with ambulances. The building was evacuated and the area cordoned off, as a drone sent footage to the Civil Defence operations room.
The ministry said investigations into the cause of the fire, which was classified as moderate, were still ongoing.
Earlier, it had posted a picture on Twitter with a caption that said it was a suspected gas cylinder explosion caused by a leak.
Col Mohammed Al Ansari, director general of Abu Dhabi Civil Defence, stressed the importance of complying with safety requirements in buildings, advising people to follow official guidelines to avoid accidents.