Dozens of men have lost their belongings at a fire that gutted labour accommodation in Al Reef on Wednesday. It is the third fire in the area in nine months. The camp was home to 1,000 Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi workers employed by Dhabi Contracting company.
The fire broke out around 9am, said witnesses. Three hours later, Civil Defence were still containing the blaze. Workers believe about 40 rooms were destroyed. Dozens watched as their belongings burned.
“I don’t know how much, but the company will give us something,” said a construction worker from Pakistan who has worked in the UAE for 12 years. “Everybody lost something but some lost more than others. We are waiting here while the company does something.
He had lost Dh200 or Dh300 in the fire, which he had set aside to use for living expenses this month. He earns Dh1,600 a month with overtime, leaving his camp at 4am each morning and returning every evening at 7pm. He shares a room with seven other employees.
He was one of dozens of men gathered outside the camp at sunset on Wednesday. Seated on blankets with suitcases and bundles of the belongings they had saved from the flames, they sat on the rocky ground and waited for news from the company.
The fire spread quickly due to the wind, said witnesses. “I was in the room when the fire started,” said an Indian carpenter from Bihar who did not give his name. “I grabbed two or three items but could not get much because the wind was coming.”
He lost Dh500 in the fire. He earns Dh1,000 a month with overtime, working from 6.30am until 5.30pm with a 90-minute break.
“The company told us in the evening they will arrange something for us,” he said. “I still don’t know what but we will see this evening.”
By the end of the day, the building they had called home was collapsing.
“Of course we compensated them for their belongings and we moved them to a new place,” said a company official.
On January 6, a second fire in the Dhabi Contracting compound destroyed the accommodation for another 200 employees. They said they received Dh100 and were moved to new accommodation in Dubai.
In April, 160 workers lost their belongings in another fire in Al Reef caused by an electrical short circuit. Following the fire, men relied on friends and colleagues to loan them money for food and essentials.
The official confirmed it the third fire at this labour camp. It was not specified whether the first fire was the April fire.
According to its website, Dhabi Contracting projects include Bateen Wharf, Umm Al Emarat Park, Al Falah School and Yas School.
Police said an official statement would be issued later.