Dubai: Two people were killed and five injured when a huge explosion ripped through a warehouse in Dubai’s Al Quoz industrial area on Wednesday.
Three people are also unaccounted for as a result of the fire which sent plumes of black smoke spiralling across Dubai on Wednesday morning.
Three firefighters suffered moderate burns trying to contain the inferno and two passersby were also hurt.
The fire, which started in a warehouse that stored fireworks illegally, soon spread to more than 70 warehouses that stocked a variety of goods, ranging from electrical equipment, clothes, plastic toys and food.
The losses have been estimated at around Dh600 million.
A 29-year-old Filipino died after being hit by a piece of flying shrapnel and another person — still to be identified — was in the warehouse when it exploded.
Dubai police said one person is missing.
A huge mushroom cloud of smoke formed over the city’s skyline after the explosion at about 7.15am. Thousands of residents were woken by the huge blast and the trail of smoke was visible to motorists making their way to work all over the city.
Debris from the fire spread across the area, reaching as far as Safa and Jumeirah.
Dubai Civil Defence said illegal fireworks had been stored in the warehouse, hindering the control operation. Firefighters also blamed the presence of flammable materials as a factor contributing to the ferocity of the fire.
The blaze was eventually brought under control by late evening.
Flames covered one square kilometre of the industrial estate.
The UAE armed forces, along with teams from Abu Dhabi Police and Civil Defence personnel from Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ajman, and Al Ain, helped Dubai personnel in fighting the fire. The department of Environment, Health and Safety at Jebel Ali also joined the efforts.
Major General Khamis Mattar Al Mazeina, Director of Dubai Police’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID), said the owner of the warehouse containing the firecrackers has been detained and is being interrogated.
Al Mazeina said investigations were ongoing to discover how the firecrackers were brought into the country. He said the authorities were waiting for firefighters to complete cooling operations before examining the scene.
The Roads and Transport Authority closed a number of roads around the blast site, leading to huge traffic jams on major arteries including Shaikh Zayed Road, Al Khail Road, Muscat Road and Umm Suqueim Road.
Hussain Al Banna, Director of the Right of Way Services Department and head of the emergency team, said: “The road closures were intended to provide easy access for fire engines as well as rescue and ambulance vehicles.”
History of disasters
– February 6, 2003: Powerful explosion and fire rip apart three warehouses in Al Qouz. Seven people were killed. Ten others were also injured in the blast said to caused by firecrackers.- March 13: Massive warehouse blaze in Al Quoz, but no one was injured. Some 2,660 barrels of petroleum compounds and 6,500 lumber planks, which were soaked in a highly inflammable liquid were gutted.
– August 9: A fire destroys workshop of a factory in Al Quoz Industrial Area. No injuries reported.
–January 24, 2004: Goods worth over Dh15 million go up in smoke when a massive fire destroyed at least three warehouses in the Al Quoz Industrial Area. No injuries or casualties reported in the incident
–May 2: Fire guts two warehouses in Al Quoz Industrial area, causing more than Dh10 million in damage.
–April 1, 2007: Fire guts a warehouse and three others partly burn down. No injuries were reported. The fire broke out in a warehouse which stocked paint and construction materials and spread to the surrounding warehouses.
–March 18: Huge blaze breaks out at a site for recycling paper in Al Quoz Industrial area number 3 behind Al Ghurair University. No injuries were reported in the fire.