Worker killed by fire in warehouse

Five other men have narrow escape from early-morning blaze.

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SHARJAH // An early-morning fire at an industrial warehouse in Sharjah killed one worker while five others narrowly escaped the blaze.

A Sharjah Industrial Area policeman confirmed a man had died but could not give any details about the cause of the fire.

It is believed that the men may have been sleeping in the building, against fire safety rules.

Emergency workers and residents said the fire started at 4am at the Everest Industrial Company warehouse. Workers from nearby shops said they heard a loud explosion and saw flames.

They then saw the five men fleeing the burning warehouse.

"The explosion was so loud that we came running out," said Mudassar, a Pakistani electrician.

Warehouses and workshops in the vicinity were closed and evacuated, a civil defence officer said. The fire was quickly controlled and there was no danger of it spreading, he said, although plumes of black smoke spewed out of the warehouse for at least 12 hours after the explosion.

The area surrounding the building, which is located in a narrow lane in Sharjah's Industrial Area Number Six, was cordoned off.

"The workers were sleeping inside and this is not permitted," said a fireman, who did not want to give his name.

Fires in industrial areas and in residential high-rises have occurred frequently in Sharjah.

A blaze at two tyre shops last month in another area of the Sharjah Industrial Zone blocked traffic for almost five hours.

And more than 100 families were left homeless after a fire gutted the 40-storey Al Tayer tower in Sharjah in April. There were no casualties in either incident.

Civil Defence officials have spoken of the need for awareness campaigns to teach residents and workers how to detect fire hazards and comply with safety regulations.

It is against UAE health and safety regulations for workers to be housed in industrial buildings. Eleven workers sleeping illegally in a perfume factory in Dubai's Al Quoz industrial area died in a fire in August, 2010. Firefighters were not aware that anyone was in the factory.

A year later, four men in a makeshift Musaffah labour camp died in a fire believed to be caused by an electrical fault. At the time, Civil Defence warned against converting warehouses into labour camps.