Dubai fire prompts safety review

Buildings under construction set to be closely monitored following Fortune Tower disaster, say officials.

Following the Fortune Tower tragedy earlier this month
Following the Fortune Tower tragedy earlier this month

Stringent fire safety checks are not being carried out on buildings under construction in Dubai, according to a top civil defence official.

While Dubai Civil Defence is obliged to clear fire safety measures installed in finished buildings, towers under construction are not monitored. The authority has now pledged to enforce stricter firefighting procedures, which could mean appointing fire safety officers on construction sites.

The move follows the fatal blaze on the 29th floor of Fortune Tower on 18 January, which killed two construction workers and injured around 25.


"After towers are finished, we give clearance," said Brigadier Rashid Thani Al Matrooshi, head of Dubai Civil Defence. "But towers under construction are not really monitored. And as for Fortune Tower, it wasn't ready to be cleared."

"We are now trying to focus on towers under construction and to make it obligatory to put standards and methods in place to fight fires, such as appointing safety officers. We plan to talk to construction companies and consultants to work on a fire safety programme for towers under construction."

Matrooshi added that the fire at Fortune Tower, which is part of the Jumeirah Lake Towers development, was caused by a spark from electrical wiring that caught plastic materials nearby. There were 280 workers on site at the time. Several of the trapped workers climbed down the building's exterior, where one man fell to his death. "The fire itself was small, but because of the burning plastic material there was a lot of smoke. The workers broke the windows to let the smoke out; if there had been a real fire on these floors, and the windows were smashed, there would have been an explosion."

The tower is being developed by Fortune Group, while the main contractor is Malaysia's IJM Construction (Middle East). The project consultant is Dimensions Engineering.

According to IJM's general manager in Dubai, Encik Ghazali Bin Ali, firefighting systems are installed on every floor of the building and regular fire evacuation drills are carried out. "We do have a sufficient number of fire extinguishers on every level of the building while it's being constructed," he said.

"We also have fire drills, as well as hold what we call ‘tool box meetings', where staff are trained on using and installing products. We work according to ISO standards."

"Prior to any fixings of these elements on the site, they should get approval from consultants in charge."

Fortune Group said last week that compensation will be paid to the families of the men who died. Workers permanently disabled by the accident will receive 10 years' salary, while those who suffered major injury will receive a year's salary.

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