Dubai residential skyscraper becomes towering inferno again

Published:  4 Aug at 6 PM
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Tagged: Canada, Dubai, UAE
In a chilling reminder of London’s Grenfell Tower disaster, Dubai’s Torch Tower residential skyscraper burst into flames for the second time, sending expats and tourists running for their lives.

The 86 storey, over 330 metre-tall residential tower’s first conflagration was in 2015, with its flammable cladding blamed for the fast spread of the fire over its external surfaces. In the same manner, the somewhat inappropriately-named Torch Tower burst into flames again last Thursday night. The skyscraper, set in Dubai’s upscale Marina district, is popular with expats working in Dubai as well as with tourists, with the fast-spreading flames forcing hundreds of occupants to evacuate via the stairs.

Flaming debris was seen falling from the tower’s exterior in a grim reminder of the first videos of London’s Grenfell Tower. Onlookers heard screams, but according to firefighters the evacuation was successfull with all the occupants escaping unharmed. Two sides of the tower were ablaze, with internal fire alarms alerting all residents and building workers directing the evacuation.

According to UAE civil defence officials, as with Grenfell Tower the flammable exterior cladding was the cause of the fire’s rapid spread across and up the building and into the interior. Dubai police say the cause of the blaze isn’t yet known, but the civil defence officials report the fire is now extinguished and investigations are underway.

One expat resident told reporters at the scene he’d been awakened by the fire alarms and the sound of people screaming. He ran down the stairs, taking a full 10 minutes to get to ground level and safety from his apartment on the 50 floor. Safety experts are citing the cladding as the reason for the swift spread of the flames, with social media accounts reporting the fire spreading as far as the parked cars in front of the tower.

The fire is one of several which have recently affected the UAE’s towering skyscrapers, with a new building code for tall buildings due to be brought in later this year as a result. The code will make the fire-testing of full-scale facade mock-ups mandatory, replacing a law which only covers the testing of materials used in construction.
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