Dubai tourists staying in fire-damaged hotel had belongings held for safe keeping

The family were among other hotel guests with rooms located in the section untouched by the fire. When permitted to enter the rooms on Saturday evening, they found passports, laptops, phones, credit cards and watches missing.

Ruzanna Galfayan, front, and Krestina Torossian, spoke of their relief at how Thursday’s events unfolded . Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
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DUBAI // Groups of tourists who were allowed to return to their hotel rooms in the fire-damaged The Address Downtown Dubai were shocked to find their valuables and documents had gone missing.

Their alarm turned to relief when they were escorted to a police station by an Emaar team to retrieve their belongings held for safe-keeping.

“I can’t believe in such a short time after such tragedy we could get our belongings back. Everyone was amazing,” said Ruzanna Galfayan, a dentist from the United States who is on holiday with family and friends.

“We are very thankful to all the people helping us, people from Emaar, police, firefighters. I am sure some of them didn’t even sleep but were helping each and everyone.”

The family were among guests with rooms located in the section of the hotel untouched by the fire. When permitted to enter the rooms on Saturday evening, they found passports, laptops, phones, credit cards and watches missing.

“We are not rich people. We worked very hard the whole year for this luxury holiday, so we were very emotional when we found we had no identity, no passports, no cell phones, no money,” said Ms Galfayan, who was staying in a 12th floor room with her husband and daughter.

The family were in the lounge and restaurant areas when the fire began and were asked to leave the building.

“We were in evening clothes when we ran from the hotel.”

A police official said all room doors were opened and valuables were kept by the police for safety.

“It is our procedure – many people enter the hotel, and we cannot control everything, so at the start we cleared valuables, passports, to keep everything safe,” the officer said.

Emaar confirmed teams were helping guests to retrieve their possessions.

“Some personal belongings are in the secure possession of the authorities, and we will coordinate with guests to release them,” a spokeswoman from The Address said.

“The property is fully secured and no individual is allowed in without valid credentials and only in the presence of officials. We fully understand the concern of our guests and residents, and we reiterate that there is strict monitoring of the property by the authorities.”

Another family, whose belongings were also with the police, had yet another scare.

Krestina Torossian, a US business management student, panicked when her father was separated from the family.

“My father was not feeling well, so he went upstairs to check his blood pressure,” Ms Torossian said.

“Then we noticed a small fire, but in three minutes the fire skyrocketed, my dad was not with us and we had to leave the hotel. People were screaming, and we were very scared about how we would find him.”

For three hours, the group stood with thousands of others watching as flames engulfed the hotel.

The family was reunited when guests were taken to another hotel lobby and given food, blankets and shoes.

Ms Torossian said, however, that she regretted being unable to enjoy the city.

“I’m still shaken,” she said while thanking the police for their prompt action.

“The only part I’m sad about is that I left Dubai without experiencing its beauty since this disaster. It really got to me. We are sad because our family wanted to enjoy a Dubai New Year and we didn’t.”