Sharjah: Three of four survivors of a deadly Sharjah fire are still battling for their life in hospital as new details emerge of the incident, sources said. Three men are in intensive care at Al Qasimi Hospital while the fourth is receiving treatment in Al Kuwaiti Hospital.
Six men have died of injuries sustained in a huge fire that tore through what is described as a goods warehouse in Al Sajaa Industrial Area on June 2. Four died at hospital on Tuesday while police recovered two charred bodies from the site on Wednesday, officials said.
Authorities are investigating the incident and determining the cause of the fire. According to a source, a worker at the site said a “hand-pulled generator powering a water pump had caught fire”.
“The fire or sparks spread to a water delivery truck parked nearby. There was a blast — maybe the truck’s diesel tank, we’re not sure — and the whole place was up in flames,” the source told Gulf News, quoting a survivor.
Horrified witnesses described a “frightening scene that left us shivering in shock”. “I saw two men on fire walk out of the inferno. Their flesh was white as their outer skin was gone. They walked about with raised arms, mumbling something. They collapsed on the sandy ground and passed out. There was smoke coming out from the back of their heads and lower back,” said a Bangladeshi worker who lives across the site.
“A little later two others emerged in the same condition. They also fell down, their bodies smouldering. We couldn’t move as we were petrified.” His housemate, who was with him, added: “There had been a tremendous blast at around 9.20pm on Sunday. It shook our compound. We looked out and saw an enormous fire looking like a giant tree of fire with spread-out branches. The heat was unbearable.
“We rushed out and fumbled to get the main compound gate open. So we started jumping over the gate in panic. Small canisters on fire were raining down everywhere around us, like missiles, starting pockets of fire. We used whatever water we had — for drinking, cleaning and washing — to put out the smaller fires.”
The source said the site of the incident was a warehouse storing bug spray cans, safety shoes, chemicals, plastic materials, and cartons. He added that the site belonged to a general trading company, with five or six employees, registered in the UAE.
Gulf News visited the site and a strong chemical, bug spray-like smell still lingered in the warm evening air. It could be felt — almost tasted — in the back of the throat. Countless burnt-out cans covered the ground, and were found heaped like small hills inside the skeletal remains of the building.
The heat or reported explosion had been powerful enough to make a mangled mess of steel frames in what remained of the roof. The victims had sustained severe burns.
The source told Gulf News, quoting a survivor, that “on the night of the incident, the men had gathered there to socialise like they often do – sharing dinner and chatting. The water truck had come to deliver water, to top up the water tank. There was no one working. There was a company employee who stays there till late to keep watch on the goods. One of the injured men is his relative. The others are acquaintances, not company staff”.
He added: “The police are investigating the incident, I cannot provide more information.” Authorities said it took firefighters six hours to bring the blaze under control. “The intensity of the fire was very strong because the materials being burned were extremely flammable,” Brigadier Abdullah Al Suwaidi, Director-General of Sharjah Civil Defence, told Gulf News.
“The fire broke out at the [site] and spread to the adjacent wood workshop but the exact cause has not been established until we carry out an investigation.” All roads around the site had been cordoned off by police and the area was evacuated. Al Sajaa Police station is investigating the incident, having “summoned and interrogated the parties concerned”.