Cladding Eyed as Culprit in High-Rise Fire

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 30, 2016


A massive fire that engulfed at least three residential high-rise buildings Monday (March 28) in Ajman, near Dubai, has sparked new concern over a cladding material widely used in the region.

The blaze quickly ripped through the towers 6, 7 and 8 at the Ajman One complex Monday evening, according to the Gulf News. The Ajman One complex consisted of 12 towers with 3,000 apartments.

Five people sustained minor injuries, the report said, citing police officials. Hundreds of evacuated residents watched as the buildings burned top to bottom into the night, sending huge chunks of debris to the ground, CBS News reported.

Many of the onlookers, as well as Ajman Police, took photographs and videos and shared them on social media sites.

“We are all very distraught,” Bismillah, a Pakistani tenant of one of the gutted towers told Gulf News. “We have lost everything.”

As of midday Tuesday, firefighters had reportedly vanquished the flames, and crews were cleaning up the debris as the site cooled from the massive inferno, Gulf News noted.

The cause of the fire is under investigation; however, several reports suggest that building’s cladding may have been responsible for the blaze’s fierce spread.

Spate of Fires

The blaze is the fifth such tower fire in the Dubai region since 2012, Gizmodo reports.

Before Monday, the most recent blaze engulfed a 63-story luxury hotel in Dubai on Dec. 31, 2015, injuring 16 people.

In February 2015, a similar blaze zipped down one of the world’s tallest residential towers, named The Torch.

Problematic Panels

Experts say such fires are escalated by the use of insulating aluminum composite panels on the outside of the buildings, according to numerous reports.

The cladding material, which contains a flammable core that can burn quickly once ignited, is estimated to cover more than 70 percent of the buildings around Dubai, reports said.

United Arab Emirates banned the use of the cladding in new buildings in 2013. Meanwhile, owners of existing structures with the material have been ordered to install additional fire-safety measures, such as sprinkler systems; however, reports relate that many have failed to complete the necessary upgrades.

   

Tagged categories: Accidents; Aluminum; Building codes; Building Envelope; Building envelope; Building facades; Building owners; Cladding; Developers; Fire; Fireproofing; Health and safety; Middle East

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