At least 16 people were killed, and another nine were hurt when a fire engulfed an apartment building in an older section of Dubai, United Arab Emirates, according to police.
It is thought that several people shared the apartment that caught fire on Saturday in the Al Murar section of Dubai’s old Deira neighborhood. This is a regular practice for the workers who drive the economy in this city-state known more for its tall buildings.
However, the confined spaces—often split by improvised partitions made of plywood, drywall, or shower curtains—can pose a severe fire risk.
The number of fatalities was disclosed in a statement from Dubai Civil Defense released by the city-state’s Dubai Media Office.
The five-story apartment building, which also houses a grocery store, a tobacco shop, and other businesses on its ground floor, had char marks on it on Sunday.
The structure was still heavily guarded by police and had yellow crime scene tape. The suburb is only 3 kilometers (2 miles) from Dubai International Airport along its flight route, and enormous Airbus A380s and Boeing 777s belonging by the long-haul carrier Emirates screamed overhead.
A wardrobe’s worth of clothing could be seen hanging on several nearby balconies; this is a typical practice when closets are transformed into living spaces for laborers sharing an apartment initially intended for a single family.
A man who was a nearby worker when the fire broke out estimated that it began soon after noon on Saturday.
He reported to the AP that there had been an explosion resembling a gas cylinder explosion, followed by a cloud of thick, black smoke. As is customary during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when the pious fast from sunrise to sunset, he claimed that neighbors assumed individuals were asleep inside.
Before the man could give his name, a Dubai police officer intervened and urged the AP reporter to leave the area.
According to a statement from Dubai Civil Defense, the fire started on the fourth story. On the fifth, the char marks could be observed.
According to the statement, preliminary investigations revealed that the fire was started by failing to follow building security and safety regulations.
A thorough analysis is conducted by “relevant authorities” to offer a detailed report on the fire’s causes.
The statement gave no further details. When contacted by the AP, the building’s management declined to comment, citing the pending police investigation. It wasn’t immediately apparent who the building’s owner was.
Recent high-rise fires in Dubai have been caused by combustible siding material. However, other fires at storage facilities and smaller buildings can break out, especially in the summer when temperatures reach 45 °C (113 °F). Dubai recorded a maximum temperature of 28 degrees Celsius (82 degrees Fahrenheit) and heavy winds on Saturday.
Since many years ago, Dubai has struggled with illegal apartment partitioning, which only worsens during periods of economic expansion and real estate booms like the one it is currently experiencing.
Despite previous crackdowns by the authorities, landlords continue to provide partitioned apartments to employees from Africa and Asia who are trying to save every euro possible to bring back home.