Residents count cost of blaze at Abu Dhabi apartment block

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ABU DHABI // A day after a blaze tore through the sixth and seventh-floor apartments of a residential building on Al Falah Street, victims were left in despair when they returned to salvage what was left of their belongings.

Authorities are investigating the cause of the fire that residents believe was caused by a discarded cigarette butt thrown on to the balcony on the seventh floor.

The acrid smell of smoke filled an empty room that Rashid Ettol, 30, shared with his two brothers Zainudeen, 40, Najmal, 26 and their sister’s husband Hamza, 45, for the past three years.

“We’ve lost all our clothes and two laptops in the fire,” said Mr Etoll as he watched maintenance staff clear the debris and remove the soot from the ceiling and walls. “Our AC unit has been badly damaged.”

He and his brothers spent the night at another brother’s home in Baniyas after the fire, which broke out at 3pm on Sunday.

“My brother Zeinudeen and I were sleeping and one of our flatmates knocked on our door to tell us our balcony was on fire,” Mr Ettol said. “We tried to put the fire out with buckets of water.”

Civil Defence teams arrived within five minutes and managed to contain the blaze in less than an hour.

The adjacent room, occupied by four or five Indians, was extensively damaged. Heavily charred mattresses, two small refrigerators and other personal belongings littered the floor.

“The men in this room now plan to move to Mussaffah but my brothers and I plan to return here after two days, when it’s safe for us to do so,” Mr Ettol said.

Two Bangladeshi cleaners, Mohammed Salim and Mohammed Soybs, both 28, were on hand to help residents clear debris from the balcony.

“Inshallah, the two rooms will be ready by tomorrow or on Wednesday,” Mr Salim said.

“We’re also busy cleaning the two other rooms downstairs on the sixth floor.”

Abdul Hameed, 50, from Pakistan, who has lived in the apartment buildingfor three months, now plans to move to Mussaffah.

“I lost most of my clothes, my 32-inch TV and speakers but we’re still lucky, no one was injured,” he said.

His roommate, Inayat Ullah, 53, who works for Etihad Airways’ transport department, does not plan to move out.

“This has been my home for nine years,” he said. “Accidents like these happen.”

After having returned from night duty on Sunday morning, he was sleeping when the fire broke out in the seventh-floor apartment.

“I just picked up my passport and ran outside,” he said. “I stayed in my friend’s home last night and returned this morning to check on my belongings.

“I didn’t lose anything but our AC needs to be replaced.”

Fazal Rahman, 39, a company driver from Pakistan, who stays in the adjacent room, said he was not as fortunate.

“We lost most of our clothes, bath towels, carpets and other personal belongings,” he said.

“Our AC is badly damaged and isn’t working so I’ll need to spend a few nights at my friend’s house.”