Three in family die in rooftop flat blaze

Three members of the same family died when fire swept through their rooftop flat in Satwa, Dubai.

DUBAI // Three members of the same family died when fire swept through their rooftop flat.

Another three people managed to escape the blaze by jumping out of small windows and on to the roof of the five-storey building.

Renalyn Luna, 24, Ariel Soberano, 28, and Krisleen Francisco, 32, all from the Philippines, were among six people sleeping in the two-bedroom rented apartment in Satwa when the blaze began early on Saturday. All three died.

Josefina Jacob, 37, her nephew, Reynald Luna, 28, and a friend, Grace Saguilot, 30, escaped. Mr Luna, who had visited for the night, sustained third-degree burns and is being treated at Rashid Hospital's burns unit.

"He is not yet aware that his sister Renalyn and his two cousins died," said Ms Jacob, a secretary at a therapy centre, who woke to find fire engulfing the flat's living room.

"Ariel woke me up between 3am and 4am, warning me that we'll all die if we don't figure out a way to get out," she said. "We were all crying for help, but no one heard or saw us. Everything happened so fast. I was later told that Ariel and my two nieces had died of suffocation."

Soberano had dozed off while watching television. Ms Jacob slept alone in one bedroom, which was relatively untouched by fire, while the rest of the women slept in the other bedroom.

The bodies were transferred to the mortuary at Dubai Police headquarters, where Ms Jacob identified them. She has sought help from the Philippine consulate.

"I don't know where to start," she said. "I need to send them home quickly but I don't have the police report or their death certificates."

The consulate will facilitate repatriation of the bodies, but needs more information first, said Lelita Pangilinan, an assistance to nationals officer at the consulate.

"We need to know the cause of the fire," she said, adding the consulate was waiting for the release of the police report before seeking repatriation funds from Manila.

"We need to find out if they had insurance and if their employers are paying for the cost," she said.

Ms Francisco had recently lost her job as a sales assistant at a mall. Mr Soberano and Ms Luna worked as waiting staff, although their sponsor was a wedding services company, Ms Jacob said.

A representative of Dubai Civil Defence last night was not able to comment on the fire.

Following a fire in a rooftop shanty in August 2008, Abu Dhabi Municipality launched a campaign to dismantle rooftop flats in the capital. Dubai Municipality has targeted illegal partitioning and overcrowding of villas.