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Fire Extinguished at United Arab Emirates Tower Complex

  • Associated Press

Two Emirati officials watch a high-rise building as a fire spreads up the side of the building in Ajman, United Arab Emirates, March 29, 2016.

Two Emirati officials watch a high-rise building as a fire spreads up the side of the building in Ajman, United Arab Emirates, March 29, 2016.

Firefighters extinguished a blaze Tuesday that burned up the side of several towers in the United Arab Emirates city of Ajman, the latest in a series of skyscraper infernos in the Gulf nation, which is home to the world's tallest building.

Civil defense workers sprayed water to cool down any remaining embers at the Ajman One development. The city is home to many commuters who work in the Gulf commercial hub of Dubai, further to the south.

The complex, developed for an estimated $720 million by Aqaar, includes 12 residential towers. Two sustained severe damage to their exteriors, while others appeared to have light damage.

The cause for the blaze, which began Monday night, wasn't immediately clear. Civil defense officials declined to comment, while telephone numbers for Aqaar rang unanswered Tuesday.

The state-run WAM news agency said Ajman's ruler, Sheikh Humaid bin Rashid Al Nuaimi, visited the complex Tuesday and praised firefighters' efforts. He also ordered authorities to accommodate those affected until they find housing.

The fire started around 9 p.m. Monday at Tower No. 8 in the complex, then spread to neighboring Tower No. 6 when winds carried burning debris toward it, resident Syad Faisal Shah said.

"No one knew that this was a real fire. No one understood,'' said Shah, a Pakistani expatriate. "When we got downstairs ... we saw that the building was on fire from every angle.''

Mina Fayez, another resident, was stunned.

"You are losing your things in front of your eyes,'' Fayez, an Egyptian, said. "There is no feeling. I am just shocked.''

The Ajman blaze comes less than three months after a massive fire raced up the exterior of the 63-story The Address Downtown Dubai, one of Dubai's most prominent hotels. It is situated next to Dubai's biggest mall and the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest skyscraper.

Similar fires have struck other high-rises built since the turn of this century in Dubai and Sharjah, which sits between Dubai and Ajman.

Building and safety experts have attributed the spate of fires to a material commonly used to cover the buildings known as aluminum composite panel cladding. Some panels used in buildings in the Emirates contain a flammable core that can burn rapidly one ignited, allowing fires to spread quickly on buildings covered top to bottom with the panels without sufficient fire breaks along the way.

It was not immediately clear if the towers in Ajman had that type of cladding, but the fire appeared to burn in a similar fashion to the other blazes.