Update: Torch tower management have rolled out a plan to remove loose building debris from the burnt out structure, which it states was mostly ‘contained to the balcony’ section of the Dubai Marina high-rise that caught fire in the early hours of Saturday.
As per Oman Insurance Company (OIC), out of 676 units, 101 apartments in the 86-storey residential tower are still not habitable and arrangements have been made for those resident in neighbouring hotels for seven days.
In a statement, Kingfield Owner Association Management Services have allayed fears, saying the structure of the building has not been affected as most of the damage was sustained and contained in the balcony areas.
It added: “It appears that most of the damage was limited to the exterior cladding, and that fire damage is far less than expected initially.”
The statement continued: “Residents of affected units have been advised and assisted where possible to book into either Media One Hotel or Gloria Hotel. Some residents have made their own arrangements. This facility is part of the insurance cover being provided by Oman Insurance.”
The management company has also stated it is meeting with Dubai Police, Dubai Municipality, Dubai Civil Defense, and the Roads and Transport Authority to discuss the removal of loose debris on the building façade affected by the fire.
The company further added: “The rope access team will be onsite to start removing the remaining debris from the building façade. This process will start as soon as all required permissions have been obtained from the relevant local authorities.
“To ensure the safety of all pedestrians and residents during this process, the access roads directly outside the building will be closed in conjunction with Dubai Police.”
The management has also stated it is working to ensure all elevators are functioning at full capacity; currently two lower zone and two higher zone lifts are working.
The management company has also clarified the building has a fully addressable fire alarm system and residents cannot manually disable fire alarms to prevent them from going off, after it was stated otherwise in some media reports.
The company further stated: “If a resident removes a smoke detector in his/her apartment, the system identifies the concerned device and alerts the main fire alarm panel as a fault so as maintenance can investigate.
“The fire alarm was fully functional and operating correctly at the time of the fire.”
The cause of the fire is yet to be determined.
Residents of The Torch tower woke up on Sunday morning to the sound of another fire alarm ripping through the building, terrifying several out onto the street.
Melissa O’Neill took to Twitter to say: “After a difficult night back home the last thing we needed was the fire alarm going off this morning.”
Another resident from the 79th floor said her legs were still hurting after she bolted down the stairwell with her one-month-old baby cradled in her arms.
She recalled: “I was asleep and my husband still working when the fire alarm sounded. We were trying to call reception to check if it was yet another false alarm when I received a call from a friend from one of the lower floors. We just grabbed our baby and ran down 79 floors.”
The couple has declined to move back into their apartment as yet, which they claim still reeks of smoke and could prove harmful to their new-born baby.
“The place still smells of smoke and the elevators only function until the 67th floor,” she said. “Under the circumstances, I don’t think anyone of us has the mental or physical strength to move back in for now.”
Emotions are running high for many residents who returned to the scene of the fire, which had woken many out of their slumber in the early hours of Saturday morning when a blaze ripped through the exterior of one of the world’s tallest residential towers in Dubai Marina.
By mid-afternoon, the lobby of The Torch was filled with weary residents carting their luggage as they moved into hotels or homes of family and friends due to their inability to access their apartment or simply giving into plain nerves.
A resident of the 24th floor said: “The alarms never even went off on my floor. I didn’t even know the building was burning down until someone called me and told me to get out.”
Only a limited number of elevators are currently functioning in The Torch, with security escorting people to their respective floors and asking residents to ring for one if they want to return to the lobby.
Head up to the 51st floor where the blaze reportedly first started, as per Dubai Civil Defence, and nothing appears out of kilter.
A Lebanese national living on the 51st floor claimed to be one of the few who called the emergency crew in the early hours of Saturday when the fire broke out in his neighbour’s apartment.
He said: “I was watching TV when I looked outside the window and saw the reflection of a fire in the neighbouring Princess Tower. When I popped into my balcony, that’s when I realised the blaze was in the apartment next door.
“I called the emergency and was informed that crew was already en route. So I ran outside and started banging on the door of apartment 5101 and woke them up. That is when they realised their balcony was ablaze.”
The resident claims he grabbed the fire extinguisher outside and tried to bring the fire under control but it had already spread to the floors above.
Andrew Rankin, a resident of the 51st floor returned to his apartment on Sunday to find his balcony ‘a gaping hole'.
He said: “We returned today to collect our things and saw the extent of the damage. The balcony is now a gaping hole, and the management has decided to include our home on the list of places that are uninhabitable for now. They are helping us make hotel arrangements for now.”
Recalling the events of the night, Rankin stated: “We were asleep when the sound of the fire alarm woke us up. We were still wondering whether it was a false alarm, when we saw the reflection of the blaze on Princess Tower.”
The two residents bolted out of their home, one without even her slippers on and was left thanking a neighbour who found her a pair in the early hours as they watched their building burn.
Back in Princess Tower’s 97th floor refuge centre for residents of The Torch, others still wait to be escorted back into their damaged apartments with a Civil Defence marshall and a representative from Emrill Security as escort.
The apartments affected by the blaze include the 101 and 108 series from the 51st floor and up.
Meanwhile, falling debris due to the wind on the night resulted in a second blaze that affected apartments on the 38th floor and up.
As damage assessment continues, SM from apartment 6808 was grateful that her home was at least insured against damages.
She said: “My husband and I signed up for home insurance only six months ago, when we wanted to insure my jewellery. Who knew this would happen.”
While the cause of fire remains under investigation, the Dubai Police has ruled out arson.
Meanwhile, Kingfield Owner Association Management Services has stated it has arranged for temporary shelter and provisions for residents in the adjacent Princess Tower.
It added in a statement: “The main focus at this time is to ensure that all residents are safe and looked after while we also assist in arrangements for alternative accommodation for those whose apartments have been affected.”