Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Explosion & fire in Al Quoz industrial area

At around seven this morning there was a huge explosion at a fireworks factory is Al Quoz industrial area, not far from Sheikh Zayed Road.

Civil Defence officials are saying, at 9am, that there's one fatality and one injured.

A huge plume of smoke is drifting over Dubai, firstly going out to sea but now changing direction and heading towards Sharjah.

Schools in the area around the fire are reported to have been evacuated, roads are closed - and SZR has heavy congestion thanks to the brainless rubbernecks whose main concern is to slow down to gawp at the smoke.

From Knowledge Village an hour ago the smoke was clearly visible...

The factory is near Interchange 3, apparently somewhere near the big cement factory. Reports from eye witnesses are saying that in spite of efforts by the firefighters the fire keeps re-igniting, presumably as more of the fireworks are set off.

I'll try to update this posting as more information becomes available and the situation becomes clearer.

Fingers crossed that no-one else has been hurt.


Civil Defence has confirmed one death and one serious injury.

Many neighbouring warehouses have been destroyed or badly damaged - estimates are varying wildly between 20 and 80. Already figures on the damage are being bandied about, but they can't be given any credibility while the fires are still raging.

Civil Defence units are arriving from Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Ajman to help control the fires.

Al Khail Road is chaotic, SZR not much better. And of course the morons are still with us, with eye-witness reports of them chasing emergency vehicles in an attempt to gain a few metres.


Civil defence say that two people have died and one is seriously injured.

Met Office say that a sea breeze is pushing the smoke - and chemicals - inland and medical advice is to stay indoors.

Reports of up to 100 neighbouring warehouses/buildings on fire or damaged and others destroyed.

Losses are obviously going to be huge, probably hundreds of millions of dirhams. I wonder what happens to the staff of these businesses - are they kept on the payroll? That might be difficult if the company isn't able to trade. Or do they simply lose their employment? That would be disastrous for very many people.


I noticed a visitor with a search engine enquiry "dubai explosion" from the UK. Followed it and I found that the international media is starting to cover the story.


I was in Mall of the Emirates at lunchtime and the fire was still burning well, so it certainly wasn't a small one.

Here's a photo from the car park at 1pm:


ZeTallGerman said...

Why can they just never give accurate information to the media? I for one would like to know if I'm inhaling toxic chemical fumes or relatively "harmless" smoke. Earlier today, a Civil Defence official was on the radio stating that a sewage plant had exploded, and the chemicals in the sewage were burning... now it's fireworks? I thought firecrackers/works are illegal here in the UAE? Whatever the case, I hope this doesn't have to happen many more times for the government to finally enforce some stricter safetey regulations. I could see the smoke all the way from Ajman this morning!

bluespinachdubai said...

My son has been evacuated from his school. The English College on SZR. His science teacher has said that the fireworks going off in this quantity result in incomplete combustion, releasing toxic carbon monoxide. The children were not allowed outside due to the poison in the air and have all been sent home. Futher more, firecrackers are supposed to be illegal here. I

Seabee said...

There were the usual confused and confusing reports at the beginning. That happens anywhere in the world when a major incident happens. People were phoning in to radio stations giving inaccurate information, as always, as to where and what it was - Mall of the Emirates was one for example, another said it was at Festival City.

When the professional news crews get there we start to get something more accurate.

They're saying "illegal fireworks factory" now, and radio has given a list of chemicals that fireworks contain plus medical advice to stay indoors.

Barry said...

I can't see how you believe fireworks to be "illegal" in Dubai! How do you explain the massive displays during the Shopping Festival, and the nightly displays during the "JUMANA, Secret of the Desert" show in Al Sahra resort. Reports in Gulf News state "Fireworks Warehouse". I doubt whether it is illegal though.

Anonymous said...

Another major concern is that it is all well and good to 'stay inside' for the rest of the day, but this hazardous cloud will lay over Dubai like a toxic blanket. Unlike other places where it rains, there is no hope of that happening here and clearing the atmosphere to an extent. It is a real concern to me and how ironic that my son's school was having an 'environment day'.

ZeTallGerman said...

Fireworks and are not allowed to be purchased by private individuals in the UAE. That's what we meant by "illegal". The huge fireworks displays during the shopping festival, etc. are organised by large pyrotechnics companies. However, every year the newspapers are full with stories about "confisgated" fireworks that were smuggled into the emirates for private use. Another irony: just yesterday the Civil Defenced staged a fire-and-rescue drill at the Sheraton Dubai Creek Hotel... I guess they needed their skills this morning.

azaan said...

I live in Al Barsha 2 and was seeing my kids off to school at 7:10am when there was an explosion kind of sound with a mushroom shaped white cloud rising.It is hard to believe that it was firecrackers must be investigated into..with Burj Dubai in the background i feel the industrial area should be moved to jebel ali and all chemicals and gas cylinders warehouse be shifted too

Anonymous said...

Does Gulf News think we are all idiots? They are reporting something like 10 buildings damaged? And the pics they are showing make it look like a smallish fire (the close up ones). Where do they get their info from? Am looking forward to Life In Dubai reporting the TRUTH!

Barry said...

I humbly refer the poster hiding behind 'anonymous' back to the Gulf News site, where more recent pics show much more carnage than before.

Rich said...

First, my very sincere condolences to the families of the 2 men reported as killed as a result of today's blast, and to the families of anyone who dies who will forever remain anonymous and unreported. This is in no way meant to take away from the affect this has had and will have on your lives.

Barry - the pics and the text simply don't match. Tell me you think that the news is reporting 100% of the situation? In any other country we would be updated by news radio and current website news constantly in such an emergency situation. And the text accompanying pics would be accurate and not attempting to cover what really happened, there would be transparency, a word that does not appear to translate into Arabic. I am sick of the lack of transparent behavior and reporting in this region, as if hiding the truth will make it appear as though something didn't happen. At 3 pm the fire is still being reported as being out, and still you can see smoke pouring from the site. Normally, I would expect online or radio reporting to be behind the actual situation reporting what happened 30 minutes ago, not reporting what will be happening in 2, 4 or 6 hours.

The pics currently on the site show alot of smoke, only the mirrors are missing.

And the only reason I was 'anon' was due to an error in loading the original comment. Any other info you would like? Age, weight, hair color?

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Rich. I'm actually surprised of the lack of up-to-date news coverage. Early on, Gulf News was reporting that the fire has been taken care of. But now I'm reading that firefighters were not able to put it out until early evening.

It reminds me of when the bridge collapsed in JBR. I received calls from people abroad asking me if everything was OK. I scanned all the radio stations here and there was no mention of it. The only time it came up was on an Arabic radio station during an hourly news bulletin after they reported on regional and international news. It seemed to be nothing more than a footnote in their broadcast.

Seabee said...

I really don't believe it's the sinister 'government suppression of news' that's blamed so often by expats. In most cases a simple bit of common sense says that there's no advantage in suppressing the facts - like the big crash on SZR the other day. And now this explosion too. Because the facts don't meet people's wild fantasies they say the government has suppressed the truth.

The reality is that most of the problems are down to our amateur 'journalists' who simply aren't up to standard. They don't know how to ask the right questions, don't know how to obtain the correct and up-to-date information, don't know how to check wild stories that the public tell them.

Radio is a little better because people call in with info. and this story has - at least on Dubai Eye - had full coverage all morning and again this evening. Actually, I think Dubai Eye have done a good job today.

Bear in mind too that there's always confusion and lack of hard information in breaking and developing stories like this explosion. For example, it appeared that the fire had been extinguished, so eye-witnesses reported that. In fact there are always hot-spots that re-ignite and spot fires that start some distance away caused by hot embers being blown around. That's obviously what's been happening in Al Quoz - Civil Defence is saying it may take 24 hours to finally extinguish the fires, and that's been reported.

ZeTallGerman said...

Today's Gulf News' article seems to be at least admitting that the smoke is actuallly toxic and it's best if you don't inhale it (no S***, Sherlock!). There's also an interesting listing of the Al Quoz History of disasters here: - Buildings have been blowing-up in Al Quoz since 2003.

i*maginate said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
i*maginate said...

83 warehouses gutted, reportedly.

Guy who rented the warehouse is being questioned. Suspected arson perhaps? Or negligence?

Am just wondering, on a deeper level, if this has any impact on the immediate areas' property prices. Or the r.e. market in general, in that vicinity.

Also noticed biggest road accident and biggest fire in Dubai/UAE's history occured within the space of a few weeks.

Anonymous said...

There is NO FIREWORKS FACTORY in Dubai nor in the UAE.

IF they were firecrackers it was an illegal storage. All licensed pyrotechnic companies in Dubai MUST store fireworks in the Dubai Police storage to get/keep the license. The facilities are outside the city, far into the desert & guarded by Police 24/7. There is no other way to do it.

Stupid and careless media (including Dubai Eye radio) are responsible for giving not accurate informations, doing black PR for fireworks companies and misleading people. Shame on you...

Seabee said...

anon, forget the conspiracy theories. It was a developing story with a lot of confusion and conflicting reports. At the time it was happening the word being used was 'factory'. That was later clarified and officially confirmed as illegal storage of firecrackers.

It was not "Stupid and careless media...doing black PR for fireworks companies and misleading people.", it was simply the way these confused stories develop - around the world. It's perfectly normal. Even the authorities don't know what's happening in the beginning, but as the facts become clear they are reported. That's what happened with this story, as it does anywhere in then world with events like it.

Anonymous said...

Seabee I must disagree with you, because I wasn't trying to develop any conspiracy theory. I'm just saying that's how things are done in Dubai and that is sad.

Did any reporter actually call Police or other authorities to ask if there is any fireworks factory in Dubai? Probably not. From whom they get "the news"? From a cab driver passing by?

I am angry, because I actually work for a licensed pyrotechnic company in Dubai. And it wasn't great news for us or anyone who is involved in that business...


Seabee said...

Jo I agree about the standard of reporting - I complain about it regularly and I have a label 'misreporting'.

doing black PR for fireworks companies and misleading people. Shame on you... was what I commented about. That isn't what happened.

As I keep saying, as these stories break and in the early stages there is confusion and conflicting reports. No-one knows all the facts. Before any news teams get to the location they report what people are saying, then they clarify as firmer information comes through. That's true of anywhere in the world, not just Dubai.

There is a responsibility on readers/listeners to understand that, not complain about lack of or misleading information being deliberately given out.

Of course the reporters should check the facts as soon as possible, and some of them do that.

Example of the problem we get in Dubai - I've heard and am still hearing many complaints that we weren't immediately told what chemicals were in the air, that it was all part of media censorship and government control. That's bullshit. No-one including the firefighters knew what was stored or burning in the dozens of warehouses, so how could they tell what was in the air until it had been tested?

Some news outlets very early on contacted medical people who advised staying indoors because of possible dangers. Eventually it was known what chemicals were in the air and that information was then published.

Anonymous said...

Hello Seabee, hi everyone,

Ok, I admit it, I was carried away a little...
I was speaking with Dubai Police Explosives Section that day and asked them to clear up asap that there is no fireworks factory in Dubai and that any of legal established pyrotechnic companies were involved in this tragedy. So far I didn't notice that kind of information anywhere.

Then I went to this blog, saw some comments about it and... it's just came out like that. Sorry :(

For everyone - please note that there is no legal fireworks trade in Dubai. You cannot manufacture, sell or buy them. Fireworks companies are allowed to do their job as a service, they cannot sell material to anyone. I hope it's more transparent now.

Seabee said...

Yes, that's been clarified for a while now. The description is 'illegal fireworks warehouse', the goods are described as 'Chinese firecrackers' and the person responsible for the warehouse was arrested

I've also seen a story in Gulf News about illegal storage and the penalties.

So it's all been tidied up :-)

Anonymous said...

Hi Seabee,

It's good to know that they took care of it so quickly...

Have a nice day,