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Thu 5 Mar 2015 02:32 PM

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Where's the love for the labourer fire victims?

Outpouring for The Torch residents is commendable but should be matched with that for those in the Abu Dhabi blaze, says Shane McGinley

Where's the love for the labourer fire victims?
Shane McGinley

In the wake of the fire at the unfortunately named The Torch tower last month, it was heartening to see the casual displays of kindness which quickly began soon after the cleaning up process commenced. Cafes sent food, the Italian embassy sent pizza and other residents helped with donations of blankets, clothes and supplies.

Luckily, in the midst of the headline-grabbing blaze, no one in the 330 metre tower was injured and while 101 of the 676 apartments were deemed uninhabitable, only a handful of people suffered minor injuries from falling debris or smoke.

But it can easily be forgotten that flames also swept through a commercial building in Mussaffah, Abu Dhabi, on the same weekend. The difference this time was that ten people were killed and eight were injured.

The difference also was that this was not a luxury tower, but a two-storey building that contained seven shops and a car repair workshop on the ground floor, while the first floor was warehouse space turned into illegal accommodation for low-paid Asian workers.

The difference also was that it was not the lead story on Sky News and it was barely reported outside the UAE and hasn't made any headlines since the original event.

In the weeks after The Torch blaze, it was revealed by insurers that those who had suffered damage to their homes would be given seven days hotel accommodation and were then on their own.

Within days, a hotel company had offered the affected residents a free 20-night stay at one of its luxury resorts in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and today a Dubai property developer has promised to house some of the victims at its hotel developments in Tecom.

“As one of Dubai’s leading property developers, we felt it was our duty to give back to the community and assist these residents by providing them with short-term accommodation so they can go about rebuilding their lives,” Danny Lubert, chairman of developer The First Group, said, without even a hint of self-serving PR.

But back to the Bangladeshi workers in Abu Dhabi. Dozens of them were back-to-back in beds in a warehouse with wooden partitions as makeshift rooms, and not much else. Where are the developers seeing it as their duty to provide these low-paid workers with much-needed new accommodation? Did any embassies sent any food to the labourers after they had witnessed 10 of their fellow employees burnt to death?

“We owe it to each other to take care of our fellow citizens and I hope that others will follow our path,” Nehme Imad Darwiche said as his company, Jannah Hotels and Resorts, offered 20-days for free in 10 hotel suites to affected residents in The Torch.

Why haven’t any resorts followed suit and offered the same gift to the labourers who could do with a luxury stay after their harrowing experience? It is likely most of The Torch residents will be able to find somewhere to live quite easily, but can the same be said for the Abu Dhabi workers who were forced to live in unsafe conditions in order to send money home to their families?

Don’t get me wrong, the outpouring for The Torch residents has been commendable, but it has been somewhat diminished when you compare it to the complete lack of support afforded the Abu Dhabi workers, who are likely to be the bigger victims in the long run.

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A;o 5 years ago

Shane, you've raised a very good point - is there some form of update as to their status now? I would like to know how they are faring, and if there they received any assistance from their embassies and their company, as I am sure other people are, too. Do let us know and how we can help; an experience like that is almost too difficult to fathom.