Big clean-up begins in Ajman after blaze

Fire chief says flames spread because of winds and burning facade panels.

The badly damaged outside of Tower Eight at the Ajman One development where the fire started before spreading to other buildings nearby. Antonie Robertson / The National
Powered by automated translation

AJMAN // A clean-up was under way on Tuesday after a blaze engulfed residential towers.

The fire in Ajman on Monday night, the biggest in the emirate’s history, started in the 26-storey Tower Eight at the Ajman One development, a cluster of 12 buildings in the Sowan area, at about 9pm, before spreading to Tower Six, said Col Nasser Al Zari, head of media and public relations at Ajman Civil Defence.

On Tuesday morning, the streets below the building were littered with charred and warped aluminium panels. A team from the Ajman Municipality and Planning Department was busy cleaning the area and streets from the debris, said Yahya Ibrahim Ahmad, general director of the municipality.

Brig Sheikh Sultan Al Nuaimi, general commander of Ajman Police, said the fire spread to another tower because of winds and the volatility of burning cladding.

Three other towers in the recently completed Dh2.7 billion 3,646-apartment development close to the corniche suffered minor damage.

Video footage of the fire posted on social media showed burning material falling from Tower Eight in a wide arc. “There is major damage in towers eight and six, and three of the surrounding towers have minor damage,” said Col Al Zari. “We need to wait a few days to determine the damage inside the towers, the materials used in the construction and the cause of the fire. After we finish the cooling process we will hand over the site to the competent authorities,” Col Al Zari said.

Ajman One was one of a number of major projects in the emirate delayed in the wake of the financial crisis.

The facade of the buildings that caught fire were covered with aluminium composite panels, but it has not yet emerged from which supplier.

It is understood that the entire development sourced panels from more than one manufacturer, which included Alubond, the maker of the panels that were used on The Address Downtown Dubai hotel which caught fire on New Year’s Eve.

Attention on The Address fire was focused on the use of highly combustible plastic filled aluminium composite panels on the facades of buildings countrywide.

In an interview last month with The National, one fire expert warned of the danger posed by so-called "domino fires", where a fire starts in one building and spreads to another as burning panels detach and fall to the ground which can ignite surrounding buildings.

More than 100 firefighters from every emirate battled for hours to put out Monday’s blaze, with the flames finally extinguished just after two o’clock on Tuesday morning.

Eight civil defence vehicles and 19 crew men from Sharjah were sent to the scene, 18 fire engines and 32 firefighters arrived from Dubai, three vehicles and six men came from UAQ, five fire engines and eight crew from RAK, two fire engines with 13 men from Fujairah and four fire engines with 30 firefighters from Abu Dhabi.

Rescue crews cleared people from the 12 towers when the fire broke out. The Red Crescent helped to house 300 tenants from Tower Eight and Six in hotels in Ajman and Sharjah.

Col Al Zari added that 10 residents suffered the effects of smoke inhalation, with five treated at the scene and the rest transferred to hospital before leaving on Tuesday morning. Two firefighters were treated by paramedics after suffering from fatigue and exhaustion.

Earlier this month, Dubai Civil Defence said the release of the updated UAE fire code would be delayed for a month to allow revisions, amendment of additional chapters and translation work.