Police quiz Sharjah residents over cause of 20-storey tower blaze

The fire that damaged a 20-storey tower and forced 80 families to flee their homes started in a flat on the seventh floor, investigators say.

Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, April 23, 2013:    Debris in an alleyway from a fire at Al Hafeet Tower 2 in Sharjah on April 23, 2013. Christopher Pike / The National
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SHARJAH // The fire that damaged a 20-storey tower and forced 80 families to flee their homes started in a flat on the seventh floor.

The occupants are being quizzed by police as part of investigations into the cause of the blaze at Al Hafeet Tower 2 in Sharjah’s Al Taawun neighbourhood.

“We have handed the premises to CID and fire experts to establish the cause of the fire and whoever is responsible,” said Brig Abdullah Al Suwaidi, the director of Sharjah Civil Defence.

The fire started at about 2pm on Monday and it took firefighters from Sharjah, Dubai and Ajman two hours to bring it under control.

Most residents were allowed to return to their homes yesterday, but 15 families whose apartments suffered the most damage stayed at hotels.

“The Civil Defence firefighters have completed their work of cooling the premises and families have been allowed to re-enter their flats in the non-gutted blocks,” said Brig Al Suwaidi.

Repair work began yesterday morning with workers from a cleaning company hired by the building’s owner removing burnt cladding that had fallen from the tower on to the streets below.

The workers also cleared and cleaned corridors and staircases.

Officials from Sharjah Municipality and Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority visited the building to switch amenities and telephone services back on.

Mohammed Faizza, who fled the fire with his family and is staying at a hotel, said: “There is no help given to most fire victims from the charities or the building owner and we have to pay from our pockets for a stay in the hotel.

“Neither the building owner nor the authorities have come up to guide us and communicate a plan in place for our return or look for other apartments to stay in.”

A police spokesman asked tenants affected by the blaze to visit their nearest police station.

Most residents did not have insurance but the building was insured by its owners, who could not be reached for comment.