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Five, including two children, die in blaze
BY LINA ABDEL RAHMAN February 13, 2018
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SHARJAH: At least five people, including two children aged 6 and 4, died after inhaling toxic fumes from a fire that broke out in a building in Sharjah in the early hours of Monday. The fire erupted on the first floor of a three-storey building, which housed 15 apartments, in the Al Butaina area.

The bodies of the three adults were taken to Al Kuwaiti Hospital while those of the two children were taken to Al Qassimi Hospital.

The fire started in Apartment 101 which was occupied by an Indian and Egyptian. They evacuated the place after the blaze engulfed most of the hall. However, the fire quickly spread, leading to the deaths of people living in three different apartments, on the second floor. It further caused suffocation and injuries to eight more tenants of various nationalities, who lived on the second and third floors of the building. Six tenants were rushed to hospital.

According to a Sharjah Police official, preliminary investigations revealed that the fire had been caused by a short circuit in the window AC, gutting all the contents of the apartment. The thick smoke engulfed the building, causing suffocation to the tenants.

The police said that they received a call at 1.12am from the Egyptian and the Indian. Brigadier Mohammed Rashid Bin Bayat, head of operations at Sharjah Police, said that the fire broke out at 1.12am in an apartment on the first floor of a three-story building.

“As soon as the accident was reported to the Sharjah Police Central Operations Room, units from the Civil Defence and Anjad rushed to the scene and arrived within two minutes. They then began evacuating the residents and dealing with the fire. The team could not save the five victims, including a 38-year-old Moroccan mother identified as Sanaa Bin Thakir who worked in the Sharjah Ladies Club and her two children. The victims also included a 35-year-old Indian man and a 40-year-old Pakistani woman identified as Ghazal who worked for a local bank.”

He added that six tenants were rushed to Al Kuwaiti and Al Qasimi hospitals where they received treatment and were immediately discharged. Further, nine members from the police force and one from the Civil Defence, who were also affected by heavy smoke during the evacuation process, were also taken to hospital.

One of the firefighters suffering from asphyxiation remained in the hospital but the others were discharged.

“There is a fire alarm in the building but we are not sure yet if it went off or not. The fire caused heavy smoke which spread to the entire building where almost everyone was asleep,” said the Brigadier.

Bin Bayat said that the owner of the building provided temporary accommodation for the surviving tenants. Lieutenant Colonel Sami Al Naqbi, Director General of Sharjah Civil Defence, praised the concerted efforts of the Civil Defence and Sharjah Police teams for their immediate response.

He called on the members of the society to take all necessary safety precautions in residential buildings. He asked the members to ensure the efficiency of electrical connections, closing gas valves before sleeping, following proper evacuation procedures during accidents and using escape exits.

The Director General of Sharjah Civil Defence emphasised the need for individuals to own, and know how to use, basic firefighting equipment, in addition to being aware of the Civil Defence phone numbers: 999 and 997. He also warned that people should know the correct mechanism of reporting accidents to prevent injury or damage.

Lieutenant Colonel Sami Al Naqbi said that the victims died as they tried to escape the heavy smoke which spread across the building.

Major General Saif Al Zari Al Shamsi, Chief Brigadier of the Sharjah Police, expressed sorrow over the incident and his condolences to the families of the victims, and wished the injured a speedy recovery. He also stressed on the continued efforts of the General Directorate in dealing with the damage caused by the fire, investigating the causes and updating the public on the results of investigation to help increase their alertness against the occurrence of such incidents.

Owner of the
gutted flat

The Emirati female owner of the gutted flat, who refused to disclose her name, and who arrived at the site, said that she received a call from the police about the fire in her apartment which was shared by two men. She said that the tenants installed the window AC and never complained about anything related to the apartment. She expressed her sadness over the demise of the victims and said what was happened was just fate.

Friends in shock

Two Moroccan women and a Sudanese from the Sharjah Ladies Club, who pleaded anonymity, arrived at the scene to confirm the death of their friend and colleague Sanaa. They said they were shocked by the news, and couldn’t believe what had happened. They said she was a single, working mother taking care of her two schoolgoing children without a husband’s support. She was a hard-working and caring mother.

Major General Jassem Mohammed Al Marzouqi, General Commander of Civil Defence at the Ministry of Interior, arrived at the scene to analyse the aftermath of the fire.

He said that the building in which the fire erupted was well equipped with required fire safety equipment and had no record of violations.

The Civil Defence plans to reduce fire accidents considerably during 2017 to 2021, and already started implementing the instructions of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, regarding the installation of fire alarm systems to be linked to the operations room. “Now we are coordinating with the Civil Defence department in the country to

urge all the building, villas and houses owners to install the system which include alarms and smoke detectors to be linked to operation room for early response to emergency. This can prevent injuries and death cases caused by suffocation due to smoke produced by fire. The top priority of the MOI is to save people’s lives. To achieve this goal the fire departments have been instructed to provide training to civilians such as housewives, security officers, watchmen, and even residents. They will be trained to follow fire prevention procedures, and can prevent losses of lives and properties.”

He stressed on the importance of installing smoke detectors in buildings, to reduce the death risks caused by smoke, produced by fire.

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