Community rallies to help homeless victims of Dubai tower blaze

Take our poll: Residents of nearby towers, moved by the plight of those who have lost their homes in the Tamweel Tower fire, have opened up their apartments to house those affected.

Damaged homes of the Tamweel tower in Jumeirah Lakes Towers in Dubai. Fire broke out in the Tamweel Tower around 2am on Sunday. Pawan Singh / The National
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DUBAI // People living in Jumeirah Lakes Towers have opened their hearts and homes to the victims of the Tamweel Tower blaze.

Pramesh Maheshwari, a resident of X1 tower, said his family had watched the fire early on Sunday from their flat window.

“We were in tears and we really felt for the people watching their homes burning all night,” Mr Maheshwari said. “Our house is small but I know we can accommodate people in this situation.”

He is one of several residents who have posted their offer on the Friends at JLT Facebook page.

And a local hotel has offered 10 rooms for families most in need.

Residents were today asked to check out of hotel apartments where they had been temporarily housed and told they had to pay for their own accommodation for the next month.

Despite the fact that they can claim at least some of the money back eventually, many who had lost passports and credit cards in the blaze said they had no way of paying hotel bills.

So far no residents have taken up the offer but Aarti Khurana Mohan, an active member of the JLT community, said she wanted to let them know of the offer.

“A lot of people can’t afford to pay upfront for hotel accommodation so we want to let them know that there is alternative accommodation available, provided by the community,” Ms Mohan said.

She owns a vacant flat in JLT, which she said could temporarily house a family in trouble.

“It’s a really tight-knit community and we have to pull together to help out people when they are in need,” Ms Mohan said.

Silvia, who lived on the 22nd floor of the 34-floor Tamweel Tower, said the response had been overwhelming.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” she said. “These people who haven’t been directly affected by the fire are all sacrificing their time and money to help people who are in trouble.”

Silvia is staying with friends but has spread the message among the community.

“I know some people have lost everything and have no one here they can rely on,” she said. “These people would definitely appreciate this.”

The fire broke out about 1.30am on Sunday morning and destroyed practically the entire north-facing side of the building. No one was injured.

Civil Defence and police are conducting investigations into the cause, but were not available for comment yesterday.

Every day since the fire, residents have been gathering behind police cordons outside Tamweel Tower hoping to be granted access to claim their belongings.

Stalls have been set up to serve tea, coffee and biscuits, and several members of the community clubbed together to buy their troubled neighbours hot meals from JLT restaurant 800 Thali.

Diane Saroukhan, a 25th-floor resident, said the food had kept her going while she waited several hours to get into her old flat.

“Everyone has been very kind, offering food and water,” Ms Saroukhan said. “There’s a very nice community spirit.”

She said Pets in the City, another JLT company, was offering free day care to the pets of Tamweel Tower residents and had been an invaluable help.

“The majority of hotel apartments won’t let dogs into the rooms, so this has been a lifesaver,” Ms Saroukhan said.

The Ramada Plaza, in Jumeirah Beach Residence, is offering 10 rooms for a week to residents most in need.

“We’re not fully booked and this was the least we could do,” said Michael Zager, the general manager. He said three of the rooms had already been booked.

“The phone hasn’t stopped ringing,” Mr Zager said. “But we didn’t want to do it on a first-come-first-served basis. We wanted to give the rooms to only those who are in the most need.

"It's just so they have a place to stay while they are getting back on their feet."