Blaze torches Dubai sky­scraper again

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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