Huge fires destroy warehouses

Firefighters battle two huge blazes that destroyed warehouses in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

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Firefighters have today battled two huge blazes that destroyed warehouses in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. A food warehouse was gutted in Al Quoz Dubai, destroying supplies destined for hotels and restaurants across the emirate. The blaze ripped through the storage area at the head office of Federal Foods, a distribution company with branches in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Fujairah and Ras al Khaimah.

Although nearly 400 people were inside the facility when the fire broke out, no casualties were reported. The management of the company present at the scene refused to give any indication of the financial loss, but maintained that there were no "human losses". "We will know the amount of loss only after assessing the damage," said Umesh Agarwal, the executive director of the company. Witnesses said that fire was spotted at around 3.30pm when smoke was seen bellowing out of the frozen storage area of the complex.

They described shocked staff running out of the building frantically calling 999 for help. "We all started running out and did not collect anything. I left everything and did not even get time to switch off the systems," said Farhad Kazi Abdullah, a company staff member who was inside when the fire broke out. "There were at least 400 people inside and we all rushed out. On a weekday there are around 1,500 people but we are lucky this happened on a weekend."

Civil defence teams reached the spot within 30 minutes, witnesses said, and immediately started trying to control the blaze. In Abu Dhabi, firefighters took five hours to extinguish a warehouse blaze in Musaffah as they battled flames fuelled by chemicals being stored inside. The fire started at about 10am and completely destroyed a warehouse belonging to MI Overseas that contained chemicals for oil-drilling companies.

"It took a lot of time, because of the chemicals in there it was difficult for them," said Alistair Kennedy, the company's operations manager who was on site. "We don't know the exact cost of the damage but there was quite a large stock of chemicals and materials. We need to now put a value on it, but just thinking about the building and materials, it will be substantial." Labourers working nearby spotted the flames and contacted the emergency services who arrived within half an hour.

Though no one was hurt, the ambulance was onsite and dispensing face masks to the fireman and anyone else exposed to the smoke. Separate investigations will try to establish how the blazes started.