More fires hit UAE labour camps as safety comes under scrutiny

Two further labour camp fires in a week look set to re-ignite the debate about the safety of the region’s labour camps

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By  Rhys Jones Published  August 21, 2004

A labour camp in Sharjah, which is housing workers who were victim to a fire in a Jebel Ali camp a fortnight ago, has itself been struck by fire. The fire broke out at a labour camp of a major contracting company in Sharjah, which houses more than 3000 labourers. No casualties were reported and the fire was attributed to a short circuit in a portacabin, which then went up in smoke. According to eyewitnesses at the scene of the fire, smoke could be seen pouring out of a portacabin located at the rear end of the labour camp. “There was some burning smell coming from the cabin and I quickly ran towards it. It was only after I entered it that I saw that the smoke coming from an electric circuit. Thankfully, there were other people around at that time who helped me put out the fire otherwise it could have lead to a greater tragedy,” said one Indian labourer known as Murli. Using pails of water to douse out the fire, the workers managed to put it out before it spread to the neighboring cabins. However, the cabin from which the fire started was badly damaged. Workers from the construction company were transferred to the labour camp in Sharjah after an earlier fire erupted in their camp in Jebel Ali. Temporary makeshift wooden cabins are still being constructed at the new site to accommodate the homeless workers. Around 3000 workers lost almost all their belongings in the earlier fire. Meanwhile, a seperate fire at Al Quoz Industrial Area’s Block B-5 early last week also led to a loss of property worth thousands of Dirhams. No one was hurt in the blaze, which was allowed to quickly spread because of an out of order fire alarm system and a lack of fire extinguishers. The fire was attributed to a short circuit by Civil Defence officials. It broke out in a room, which was rented by Meal-on-Wheels for its six employees according to Captain Ali Saleh of Dubai Civil Defence.

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