MEP workers hospitalised in tower fire

16 MEP operatives were treated in hospital following a fire in a commercial tower under construction in Dubai, with one remaining in intensive care. An investigation into the cause of the fire and extent of the damage caused is underway.

MEP contractor Omega Engineering has reported that 16 of its staff were hospitalised following a fire in the under-construction Fortune Tower on 18 January. At the time of going to print, one labourer remains in the intensive care unit (ICU) of Dubai's Rashid Hospital.

Most of the 16 were suffering from smoke inhalation and were released on the same day. The patient in ICU also suffered burns; the latest report at time of print was that he is expected to be released by mid-February and will make a full recovery. A further operative admitted to the ICU initially has been released.

The operatives were among a total of around 57 injured who were taken to three local hospitals for treatment following the fire. Further workers were given oxygen and first-aid treatment on site for minor levels of smoke inhalation.

Two labourers died in the incident at the project in the Jumeirah Lake Towers development. It has yet to be confirmed by whom the men were employed.

Omega was one of seven subcontractors working on the 35-storey project alongside the main contractor, the Malaysian-based IJM Construction (Middle East). The firm had 118 labourers and six engineers employed on the project; total staff numbers on the site were around 300.

The relatively low number of injured has been attributed to the fact that the fire broke out during the site's lunch break. Omega has also praised the actions of the Civil Defence Authority and Jel Ali police station during and after the fire.

Omega had 47 staff in the building when the fire began. "Most of our people were in the top four or five floors, so we instructed them to move to the roof," stated Ramy Aboul Hosn, hr and administration manager. "Three or four people remained stuck inside the floors because they were tired from smoke inhalation, so two or three of our people had the courage and they went back down and carried them to the roof," he added.

Mobile phones were used to communicate with staff inside the building to determine the numbers involved and their location. These details aided the Civil Defence Authority's rescue efforts, which lasted around five hours.

Omega was further involved in the efforts, connecting the rescue team's water tankers to the building's mains water and sprinkler systems. "Everything was ready but we weren't in the position to test and commission, that's why the sprinklers didn't work immediately," explained Omega projects manager Shadi Abu Fakher.

The location and cause of the fire had yet to be confirmed at the time of printing, with the investigation underway. "What we can say is that the mains electricity from DEWA was not connected to the building yet," stated Aboul Hosn, "That's why there was no testing and commissioning yet. There was no power."

Access to the site has been stopped to enable an official investigation to be completed, so the extent of the damage has also yet to be established. Although images from the scene showed smoke coming from the building's upper levels it is unknown if the fire was confined to this area. "As of today, we don't know where the fire started, where it finished and which floors are damaged," stated Aboul Hosn. "Civil Defence has said that from floors 12 and up the fire is there, the first twelve floors are safe."

MEP installation on the tower was in its final phases at the time of the fire, with Omega due to finish work on site on 20 January. It will return to complete the project following the investigation.

Omega has confirmed that it will pay compensation to all operatives working on the project. The two most severely injured will receive three months paid leave and an air ticket to their home country. These payments are in addition to those announced by the Fortune Group.

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