A fire swept through an apartment building in an older neighbourhood of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, killing at least 16 people and injuring another nine, authorities have said.
The blaze on Saturday in the Al Murar area of Dubai’s historic Deira neighbourhood struck a five-storey apartment believed to have been shared by multiple individuals, a common practice for labourers who power the economy in this city-state known more for its towering skyscrapers.
But the tight quarters, often subdivided by makeshift barriers of plywood, drywall or shower curtains, can become a major risk in fires.
The state-linked newspaper The National cited a statement from Dubai Civil Defence provided by the city-state’s Dubai Media Office for the death toll.
Naseer Vatanappally, a Dubai-based businessman who volunteers with the Indian Consulate on repatriation issues, told the Associated Press that authorities had identified the dead as six Sudanese, four Indians, three Pakistanis, a Cameroonian, an Egyptian and a Jordanian.
He said police were working to process paperwork to send the remains of the dead back to their homelands.
On Sunday, char marks could be seen on the apartment building, home also to a grocery store, a smoke shop and other businesses on its ground floor.
Yellow police crime scene tape cordoned off the building, which also still had a heavy police presence.
On neighbouring balconies, clothes could be seen hanging – a common practice when closets are converted into living space for labourers sharing an apartment initially designed for a single family.
That is seen throughout Deira, which is located alongside the Dubai Creek and is also home to its gold and spice markets, a major tourist attraction in the city.
A man working nearby at the time of the blaze put the start of the fire at just after noon on Saturday.
He told The Associated Press that there had been an explosion, like from a gas cylinder catching fire, followed by thick black smoke.
He said neighbours believed people were asleep inside at the time, something typical for the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan when the faithful abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset.
A Dubai police officer stopped the AP journalist from talking to the man before he gave his name and told the reporter to leave the area.
The Dubai Civil Defence statement, cited by The National, described the fire as starting on the fourth floor.
The char marks could be seen on the fifth floor, where glass appeared to have been blown out by the blaze.
“Preliminary investigations showed that lack of compliance with building security and safety requirements caused the fire,” the statement reportedly said.
“Relevant authorities are conducting a comprehensive investigation to provide a detailed report on the causes of the accident.”
The statement did not elaborate.