One carelessly discarded cigarette butt caused the fire that ripped through Sharjah’s Abbco Tower last week, authorities said on Sunday.
The Sharjah Police’s investigation revealed that the lit cigarette butt landed on a pile of cartons on the first floor of the building and started the blaze.
“It must have been thrown by someone from the upper floors or a neighbouring building,” said Brig Ahmed Al Serkal, director of forensic laboratories and acting director of police operation.
“Cigarette butts have long been a major cause of fire accidents in towers and high-rise buildings in the country,” he said. In fact, it was among the top causes of fire in Sharjah last year.
The blaze gutted the first floor of Abbco Tower, and when it reached the exteriors, it quickly spread throughout the façade as this was covered with the banned ‘aluminum composite cladding’, a highly flammable material.
“It is unfortunate that one silly act of a careless person has caused such huge damage,” Brig Al Serkal said.
“Police investigation is under way to identify the person who tossed the cigarette and take him to court for legal action.”
26 flats destroyed
Currently, several families who live in the building are staying at nearby hotels. The authorities and various charities have been helping them cope with the ordeal.
Police said the blaze completely destroyed 26 flats located on the side of the facade that was charred black. Sixty-four others were damaged.
However, out of the 333 units at the building, 203 were not affected by the fire, Brig Al Serkal said.
A total of 33 cars were damaged – 17 were parked on the 10th floor of the tower and 16 were parked outside.
Col Sami Al Naqbi, director-general of Sharjah Civil Defence, hailed the swift action of the 82 firefighters who responded to the incident.
Each member of the team worked hard to keep all tenants safe and bring the blaze under control, he said.
Col Al Naqbi also lauded the quick response of the residents who immediately reported the fire.
Though the tower had extinguishers and other fire safety equipment, these were not activated since the flames were on the building’s exterior, he pointed out.
The emirate’s civil defence team will be ramping up efforts to ensure that old buildings would no longer have the banned aluminum cladding by the end of the year, Col Al Naqbi said.