10 killed, 8 hurt in Abu Dhabi fire that guts building being illegally used as labour quarters

By on February 22, 2015


Abu Dhabi (shutterstock)
Abu Dhabi (shutterstock)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Police in the Emirati capital of Abu Dhabi have launched an investigation into a deadly fire that tore through a building in an industrial area where labourers were sleeping and killed 10 people.

Abu Dhabi police said the fire broke out early Friday morning in the al-Mussafah industrial area, a district filled with warehouses, factories and workshops on the outskirts of the capital.

The blaze started in car repair shops located at the base of a commercial building before spreading to a second-story warehouse that had been illegally rented out as accommodation to the workers. Firefighters managed to put out the fire only after it had gutted the entire building.

Besides the 10 people killed, eight others were wounded, police said.

Police did not identify the victims, but said they comprised different nationalities. Much of the manual labour in the Emirates is done by South Asians, though the country draws workers from around the world who are attracted by promises of better wages than they could make back home.

An investigation into the fire is underway. Police have arrested the building owner and are in the process of detaining others, including the building supervisor. The police said authorities will “show zero tolerance to those who disregard public safety conditions.”

Rights activists have long raised concerns about conditions for low-paid migrant labourers in the Emirates and other oil-rich Gulf states. Migrant workers are typically housed in dormitory-style housing known as labour camps that contain several bunk beds per room.