Fire forces hundreds to flee buildings in capital

Eight Egyptians escaped uninjured from a fire in the kitchen of their ninth-floor apartment in Khalidiya.

ABU DHABI // Eight Egyptians escaped uninjured from a fire in their ninth-floor apartment in Khalidiya yesterday that forced hundreds to flee their homes and businesses. The alarm was raised when smoke from the high-rise blaze spilled from the flat's kitchen to the bedroom. Firemen responded to an emergency call at 10.14am and were on the scene within four minutes. Police are investigating how the fire started.

"There was heavy smoke and we inhaled a lot, but once I got back downstairs I felt better," said Umeel Mishadi, 23. Still dressed in his pyjamas after escaping the blaze, he was visibly shaken after losing some of his possessions. "We do not know how it started," he said. As a precaution, police ordered hundreds of residents and office workers to leave the building and others nearby, in the area of the Cultural Centre. They watched as emergency services brought the blaze under control.

"I wasn't in the bedroom when it happened. I just opened the door and saw all the smoke so was very scared," said Mahmoud Abu el Hamd, 26, another roommate in the ninth-floor flat. Three people, two residents and a fireman, needed minor medical attention, said Mohammed Abdurahim, a paramedic on site. Hundreds of bachelors live in the building, most sharing rooms with several other workers from their companies or with friends.

Johan Swartz was working in the building next door when the fire began. "We were told to get out of our building by the police, just in case." Police Lt Khalid al Badi praised the "quick intervention" of the two stations, Al Bateen and Al Falah, for dealing with the emergency effectively.