Massive explosion rocks Dubai

UPDATE 5: Explosion at illegal fireworks factory, up to 20 buildings ablaze, at least two dead.
By Amy Glass and Dylan Bowman
Wed 26 Mar 2008 08:41 AM

A massive explosion at an illegal fireworks warehouse in the Al Quoz industrial area of Dubai early Wednesday morning has sparked a huge fire, withblack smoke stretching for miles across the city.

Over 20 of the 83 buildings in the area were engulfed in flames, but the blaze has now been bought under control, police said.

Police said at 4:00 pm the blaze was still burning, but they expected the fire would be fully extinguished by the end of the day.

General Saif Al Shafar, undersecretary of the Ministry of Interior, told ArabianBusiness.com at the scene two people were dead and one was seriously injured in what he decribed as the biggest fire in the UAE's history.

The dead were believed to be security guards at the warehouse or surrounding buildings, he said.

The arrival of fire reinforcements from other emirates had been delayed by heavy traffic congestion, hampering efforts to contain the fire, he said.

The windy weather was not helping efforts to bring the massive blaze under control either, he added.

A large number of fire trucks, ambulances, police, civil defence are at the scene and authorities have erected blockages for at least a kilometre around the area.

According to reports on the radio, all schools in the area are in the process of being evacuated.

Al Shafar said an investigation into the illegal fireworks factory was underway and charges would follow.

The ArabianBusiness.com reporter said many police and emergency services are wearing masks to protect themselves from any potential toxic fumes and there have been reports on the radio of reduced oxygen levels in the area.

The smoke billowing from the area behind Sheikh Zayed Road has ground traffic to a standstill as motorists slowed down to look.

There were two explosions that started the fire. The first was at 7:10 am and was so large it could be felt up to six kilometres away, people at the scene said. The second smaller explosion happened at around 8:00 am.

One eyewitness at the scene told ArabianBusiness.com shortly after the fire began that there were lots of mini explosions continuing to go off inside the building.

Were you there? Did you take pictures or video? Leave your comments here, or contact dylan.bowman@itp.com or call 04 210 8563 with your eyewitness report.

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