Friday, January 19, 2007

Reports of four dead in tower fire.

Sadly the fire at Jumeirah Lake Towers yesterday is reported to have cost four workers their lives.

Photo. David Renkwitz. Gulf News.

Many more were hospitalised but thankfully the biggest problems seem to be smoke inhalation and minor burns and all are expected to recover quickly.

The emergency services seem to have done an excellent job, so congratulations to everyone involved. I have enormous respect for the emergency services, especially firefighters. I've said in my posts about the Aussie bushfires that the word 'hero' has been overused to the point of it being meaningless, but firefighters to me are true heroes. They run towards the thing that the rest of us are running away from in terror.

Apart from the deaths and injuries there were some other worrying aspects about the emergency that became apparent.

Safety standards

The first is site safety and safety training for employees. There seem to be several things that need to be looked at as a matter of urgency, not only at this site but at all others, indicated by this report:

Speaking from Dubai Hospital where he was being treated for smoke inhalation, Moataz Khalil, the general supervisor at the site said the first couple of floors were blocked.

"There was a special lift but the workers could not access it," he said.

He said when he rushed in with Civil Defence officers, the place was engulfed in smoke and there was only darkness. "The staircase from the beginning of the 15th floor was locked and I had to unlock all the doors," he said.

He said they ran up through the fire escape staircase and as they reached the 15th floor, one Civil Defence officer started helping the workers stuck on the higher floors.

"The workers were in a very shaky state. The very brave Civil Defence worker and I tried our best to get everyone out," he said.

"Some of the workers escaped the fire and smoke hanging onto wires outside the building and others were taken by the Civil Defence worker and me to the roof," he said.

Lifts not accessible, doors locked, workers not trained where to go, how to escape the fire? Surely that shouldn't be acceptable.

Emergency service locations

The other thing is the emergency services vehicles having to fight the traffic on Sheikh Zayed Road to try to get to the site.

Jumeirah Lake Towers is in the midst of 'New Dubai', with its hundreds of towers, thousands of villas, plus malls, hotels and so on. Surely long ago we should have had fire, police, ambulance stationed in the area. A public hospital too.

They have a hard enough job to do and people's lives depend on their rapid response. To give them the added obstacle of fighting traffic on the busiest road in Dubai to get to the scene is asking too much.

The stories are in Gulf News: Tower fire traps workers.

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