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UAE expats made homeless by fire recount woes

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The fire, which took place on January 4, has completely gutted three apartments in what is popularly known as the ‘Rivoli showroom building’.

Over 45 Indian and a handful of Pakistani expatriates, predominantly bachelors, have suffered severe losses after a fire razed three apartments in Dubai’s Meena Bazaar district, Bur Dubai, Khaleej Times has learnt.

The fire, which took place on January 4, has completely gutted three apartments in what is popularly known as the ‘Rivoli showroom building’. Dubai Civil Defence authorities confirmed to Khaleej Times that the incident took place last week, and the blaze was brought under control before it caused more damage. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Victims are mostly bachelors renting bed spaces “Most of the residents in two out of the three apartments were bachelors. We were all renting bed spaces. There are approximately 20 bachelors in each flat,” explained Imran Sheikh, one of the residents of the flats that burnt down.

A taxi driver with a private transportation company, Sheikh has lost all his documents including his passport, driver’s license, RTA card, Emirates ID, and all other important documents. “I cannot even work until I get all these documents re-made. We get paid a salary based on commissions. If I don’t work, I don’t get paid.

How can I drive without a license?,” he lamented.

While most residents of the apartments escaped unscathed, one resident, Indian national Madan Lal,45, was hospitalised at Rashid Hospital after suffering injuries, including multiple fractures, while trying to escape the fire.

“The fire broke out near the entrance door of one of the apartments and it spread rapidly because there were some cardboard boxes filled with easily flammable substances in the living area,” said Sheikh.

“He (Madan) tried to flee the fire by breaking open the window and by climbing down using the building’s external plumbing pipes. He slipped, fell and suffered several broken bones. He has to be under complete bed rest for six months,” said Sheikh. Lal is an employee of Dubai Ports.

According to the residents of the building, the fire took place at approximately 8.30 pm.

Mohammed Anwar, another Indian expatriate who works in the Rulers Court projects and maintenance department, said:, “Most of us were at work when the fire took place. There were only four of us in our flat when the fire broke out. I returned home at 8 pm and was in the room when I realised something was amiss.”

“The fire spread aggressively. A few of us had to drape wet blankets around us and rush out of the building to escape the fire,” he explained. “Since all bedrooms were tightly packed with bunk beds, there were a lot of clothes that burnt quickly,” said Anwar.

Many of the residents in the apartments are employees of nearby electronic and textile stores. “We had to go back to work the very next day. Most of them lost their important documents… our passports, education certificates, experience certificates, money, etc. Making these documents again is going to be very difficult,” added Sheikh.

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