Thursday, May 2, 2013

'Towering inferno' fears for Gulf's high-rise blocks

Tamweel Tower on fire in Dubai (November 2012)   

There were no casualties in the Tamweel Tower blaze in Dubai, but the building was gutted

Fears of a "towering inferno" disaster in the Gulf are growing after fires left residential buildings heavily damaged in the United Arab Emirates cities of Sharjah and Dubai.

The Arab Gulf states are home to some of the most spectacular high-rise towers in the world. But some building experts say that many of those towers are sheathed in a highly flammable material that puts occupants at risk.

One expert in the UAE has estimated that 70% of the high-rise buildings there have panel facade cladding made of a combustible thermoplastic core held between two sheets of aluminium.

When the panel ignites, fire spreads rapidly, racing to the top of the building and sending flaming debris hurtling to the streets below. "Like a Roman candle" is how one observer described it.

The initial cause of the fire can be something as simple as a discarded cigarette butt or a charcoal barbeque left unattended on a balcony.

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