Fire engulfs Jebel Ali factory, forcing workers to flee

A large fire that broke out at a Jebel Ali factory forced the evacuation of nearly 130 employees and sent a large plume of black smoke over Dubai's south-western outskirts.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates, oct 30 2011, dhow Fire, Dubai Creek- Firefighters rest after battling a Dhow boat fire along the dubai creek.The remains of a burned Dhow are all that remain after a fire totally destroyed a cargo loaded dhow boat moured along the dubai creek. Mike Young / The National
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DUBAI // A large fire broke out yesterday afternoon at a Jebel Ali factory that makes bed sheets and household linen, forcing the evacuation of nearly 130 employees.

More than 20 emergency vehicles, including an incident command unit and ambulance bus, were sent to the scene and firefighters battled the blaze into the early evening.

The fire started about 1.30pm at a warehouse owned by Wonu International in Jebel Ali Free Zone. It sent a large plume of black smoke over Dubai’s south-western outskirts.

“This factory is known to have a large number of flammable liquids on site, such as paint dyes and other chemicals, and is considered one of the high-risk companies here,” said an environment, health and safety officer employed by the Department of Planning and Development’s Ports, Customs, and Free Zone Corporation. “As a high-risk company, the factory is inspected every three months.”

The safety officer said the fire began at the factory side of the property and spread quickly, forcing the evacuation of 128 personnel from the property.

“Everyone is accounted for,” he said, adding that a number of employees had initially tried to extinguish the blaze with handheld fire extinguishers. “When the fire got out of control, everyone was ordered out,” he said.

Dozens of used fire extinguishers could be seen at the perimeter of the property.

The company’s general manager, Choon Park, confirmed the building held acrylic blankets. He confirmed that everyone had escaped.

Neighbouring businesses such as Dispotech and SAI International FZCO were also evacuated, as they were blanketed in thick, acrid smoke from the blaze that raged less than 100 metres away. Neither businesses suffered any damage.

The Jebel Ali port is a major hub for Gulf shipping, and is near a new airport complex that Emirati officials hope to develop into a global cargo and transport centre in the coming decade. It is located 25km south-west of central Dubai.