Dubai’s landmark goes up in smoke

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Dubai’s landmark goes up in smoke
By Amira Agarib and Riyasbabu (Our staff reporters)KHALEEJ TIMES 3 April 2008

DUBAI — More than 180 shops in the three-decade-old Naif Souq in Deira, popularly known as ‘cabin market’, were reduced to ashes, following a massive blaze in the early hours of yesterday. No casualty or injury was reported, officials said.

The fire gutted 184 shops of the 190 shops in the souq, Salim Zayed, Head of Market Control Section of Dubai Municipality, said.

The losses, according to market sources, are expected to run into millions of dirhams.

Fire experts are investigating the cause of the fire. Naif Souq, a popular shopping centre for traditional goods, mainly clothes, readymade garments, toys, bags and fashion accessories, went up in flames around 1.50am.

The police and Civil Defence officials reached the site immediately and struggled for hours to contain the fire. They managed to do so before it could spread to shops and the buildings in the densely populated area.

A large number of shop owners watched helplessly as the fire raged on.

Anwar, 35-year-old Afghan owner of shop No. 334 in the souq, collapsed at the site of the blaze. He is said to have lost goods worth Dh100,000.

Firefighters from Al Ras Civil Defence reached the scene at 1.58am. Firefighters from other civil defence stations, including Al Hamriya, Karama, Ghusais and Jebel Ali joined them later.

The blaze caused panic in the densely populated Naif area as thick smoke billowed as flames spread.

Eyewitnesses said hundreds of shops, mainly housed in wooden portakabins stocked with garments, toys and perfumes, went up in flames in a matter of minutes.

A Civil Defence officer said the fire might have started due to a short circuit in the electricity control panel located near gate No. 5 of the souq.

Major-General Khamis Mattar Al Mazina, Deputy Commander-in-Chief of Dubai Police who was present at the site, said the forensic experts are investigating.

Officers of Naif police station are in talks with shop owners to assess the material losses. The police have ordered the owners of unaffected shops in the souq to remain closed till the investigations are completed.

A Dubai Municipality market inspector revealed the market was in good condition and that the municipality carried out periodical inspections and routine checks on the safety measures.

He said they carried out maintenance works regularly at the cabin market building. “The only problem faced by the souq building was its narrow passages and lack of air-conditioning system.’

He said the municipality had insured the building and it might build a modern market soon.

Major Khalid Obaid Kanoon, Director of Firefighting and Rescue Operations of Diera district, and Major Juma Salem, Director of Firefighting and Rescue Operations of Bur Dubai, and a number of officers from various stations joined the firefighting operation.

The entire operation which lasted till morning was supervised by Colonel Ahmed Obaid Al Sayegh, Acting Director of the Dubai Civil Defence.