DUBAI // A discarded cigarette butt caused the fire that broke out in the 75-storey Sulafa Tower in Dubai Marina on Wednesday afternoon.
The building’s management said the blaze, which started at about 3pm in an apartment on the 61st floor, was caused by a cigarette. How the flames were able to spread through the tower and to other floors so quickly is still being investigated.
Civil Defence teams evacuated nearby towers and blocked roads to prevent injuries from falling debris, leading to hours of traffic chaos as hundreds gathered to watch the blaze.
Units from Al Barsha, Al Rashidiya, Al Karama and Al Marsa stations attended the scene, with the fire brought under control by 6pm. No injuries were reported.
This is not the first time a high-rise fire has been caused by someone apparently carelessly disposing of a cigarette.
In 2012 the blaze that gutted Tamweel Tower in Jumeirah Lakes Towers was found to have been caused by a cigarette, probably thrown from a balcony, that ignited rubbish outside the building, according to a report by Dubai Police forensic department. The report said that there was no criminal intent.
By 10pm on Wednesday, people were let back into the smoke-damaged building, with those whose flats escaped the flames allowed to briefly enter their homes. Tenants and owners affected have been staying in nearby hotels or with friends and family.
Sulafa Tower’s operations security manager said people whose apartments were damaged would be given temporary accommodation.
About 130 residents took shelter at the Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina after bosses tweeted an offer of accommodation, with about 130 people making the short walk across Al Sufouh Road after Civil Defence teams prevented them from returning to their homes while they made sure the tower was safe.
“We had between 100 and 130 in the ballroom, where we set up roll-away beds,” said Nazlee Tayob, assistant director of marketing at the Mina Seyahi complex.
“Most people left on Thursday morning, going to the houses of family or friends.”
Ms Tayob said that staff provided use of showers, toiletries and nappies for infants. They also brought in entertainers to keep youngsters happy.
“We will help them for as long as we need to,” she said. “We even had people come with dogs and cats, which we also welcomed. We could not turn them away in such desperate situations.”
Sandra Merhi, from Lebanon, lived on the 67th floor. She took a taxi from work when she heard about the fire.
“I tried to run into the building, but realised I wasn’t going to get far with the smoke. They didn’t let me in anyway and there was no point.
“We waited downstairs as the fire department did an excellent job putting out the fire.”
The blaze spread to the 70th, Ms Merhi said. Debris and high winds fanned the flames around the sides of the building.
“My flat is on the opposite side [of where the fire was]. We know all the apartments that end with the numbers 09, 02, 01 were damaged from [floors] 60 to 70. I am 04,” said Ms Merhi, who is staying in a hotel after being allowed back to collect her two cats.
“No one is advised to stay in the building and there are no elevators anyway. I don’t believe anyone would move back in. People can go to their apartments if they show their IDs, but they have to take the stairs. It smells really bad,” she said.
“I’m paying for the hotel but I heard there might be some sort of reimbursement or partial reimbursement. I don’t have details yet.”
Ms Merhi is staying at the nearby Le Meridien Mina Seyahi, which has offered residents affected by the blaze a reduced rate for rooms.
“The hotel has been very helpful, and offered us refreshments and a lounge to relax. They also gave us special rates, which is nice considering it is high season. They also let me keep my cats with me.”