Abbco Tower: 48-floor UAE skyscraper goes up in flames in latest fire to strike nation's high rises

Blaze the latest to hit country's tower blocks, with flammable cladding frequently blamed

Vincent Wood
Wednesday 06 May 2020 02:00
Huge fire engulfs 48-floor skyscraper in United Arab Emirates

A high-rise tower has been engulfed in flame in one of the largest cities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), casting burning debris into the surrounding street.

Footage from the scene showed flames shooting up the sides of 48-floor Abbco Tower in Sharjah, which neighbours Dubai.

The 623ft tower is among the tallest buildings in Sharjah, one of the seven sheikhdoms that makes up the UAE.

Emergency services were called to the scene shortly after 9pm local time (5pm GMT), just after those fasting for the holy month of Ramadan had finished their iftar meals.

Seven people were treated for minor injuries from the fire in the tower in Sharjah's Al Nahda area and taken to hospital for treatment, the regional government’s media office tweeted.

All other residents were evacuated, and the fire has since been brought under control, but officials were not able provide initial details on the cause of the blaze.

Firefighters used a ladder truck to spray water into the building, whose cement-block walls stood charred and exposed after the fire.

Syrian Fadlallah Hassoun, who had just finished his day's iftar meal in his apartment in the tower, told the Associated Press he initially dismissed the fire alarm as a test.

"Me and family just directly went down with everything we just had and what we were just wearing and we came down immediately," said Mr Hassoun, cradling his cat, which he rescued from the building.

Many others similarly left the building with nothing other than their face masks required in the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

"[Authorities] took our names so that they can see what they can do for us and help us because now we came out and we have no idea what we are going to do," he said. "We are just waiting in the street and seeing what's going to happen."

The UAE, including skyscraper-studded Dubai, has suffered a spate of fires in its high-rises in recent years - with the aluminium composite panel cladding used in the region often a root cause of a blaze’s spread.

While some types of cladding can be made with fire-resistant material, experts say those that have caught fire in the UAE and elsewhere were not designed to meet stricter safety standards, and often were put onto buildings without any breaks to slow or halt a possible blaze.

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