Blaze torches Dubai skyscraper again
DUBAI: A fire ripped through one of the world’s tallest residential towers in the city, the latest in a series of fires in tall structures in the UAE over the past three years.
Flames shot up the sides of the Torch tower yesterday in the second blaze to hit the highrise since 2015, forcing hundreds to flee as burning debris showered down the sides of the 337m-tall, 79-storey structure.
“We were sleeping and we woke up to the fire alarm and people screaming. We ran down the stairs and it took us about 10 minutes to reach from the 50th floor,” a resident said.
“It was very bad. The fire was very strong at that time – about 1am. Then it started calming down over the next two hours.”
The tower was evacuated, no injuries were reported, and there was no immediate word on the cause of the blaze.
The incident may revive questions about the safety of materials used on the exteriors of tall buildings across the wealthy Gulf region and beyond.
An investigation by the management of the Torch after its 2015 fire found that most of the damage was to the cladding, exterior panelling used for decoration or insulation.
Police in Britain believe the system of insulation and panels added during a refurbishment of London’s Grenfell Tower may have contributed to the rapid spread of a fire there in June in which 80 died.
The UAE revised its building safety code in 2013 to require cladding on all new buildings over 15m tall be fire-resistant, but older buildings are exempt.
Most of Dubai’s approximately 250 high- rise buildings use cladding panels with thermoplastic cores, UAE media have reported. Panels can consist of plastic or polyurethane fillings sandwiched between aluminium sheets.
Such cladding is not neces- sarily hazardous, but it can be flammable under certain circumstances and, depending on a skyscraper’s design, may channel fires through windows into the interiors of buildings.
Dubai authorities said firefighters extinguished the blaze around 4am.
Firefighters and police sealed off surrounding streets, which were partially covered by dust and debris. Another resident said the top part of the tower caught fire first and then lower levels followed as debris fell.
The government said it was working on providing shelter for those affected by the fire.
In August last year a fire swept through a 28- storey building under construction in the UAE capital, Abu Dhabi, injuring 13, including 10 emergency service personnel.
Earlier that same month, a fire damaged part of a multistorey building under construction in Dubai.
In July last year a fire broke out in Dubai’s residential 75-storey Sulafa Tower. On New Year’s Eve 2015, a blaze hit a Dubai hotel. – Reuters
Fire damage to the exterior of the Torch Tower in the Marina district of Dubai.