Hundreds of Dubai's tallest buildings are infernos waiting to happen, a leading fire safety expert says, as new video of the burnt interior of the Address Hotel is released
Mr Barry, who served 30 years as a UK firefighter before becoming a senior lecturer in fire safety at the national fire service college in Gloucestershire, estimates that some 70 per cent of Dubai's high rise buildings could be clad in the flammable materials.
At the heart of safety concerns is the use of polyurethane and aluminium composite cladding on buildings throughout the height of the emirate's building boom. The material was only outlawed by new buildings regulations in 2013.
Expert, Phil Barry, said No-one has died yet, but there will be fatalities sooner or later
Dubai government's media office issued a civil defence statement saying that security services were āinvestigating the causes and circumstances of the fireā at The Address but passed no further comment on causes.
Mr Barry claims that fire safety inspections are often lax, either because they are carried out by an expat worker with the wrong qualifications, or because the owner of the buildings has political connections that make him "bigger" than the fire safety authorities.
"The basic rule is that the outside of any building over 30 metres-which is as high as any fire-truck ladder can reach-must be made of non-combustible materials because you cannot fight the fire. Large numbers of buildings in the UAE do not meet that standard," he said.
The difficulty for British visitor to Dubai and other UAE destinations is that it is often impossible to tell if your hotel or accommodation block is clad in flammable or non-flammable material.
"It's not obvious just to look at it," says Mr Barry, who served 30 years as a UK firefighter before becoming a senior lecturer in fire safety at the national fire service college in Gloucestershire.
He notes that while Dubai amended its fire standards for the exterior of buildings in 2013, the UK's own standards have been in place for more than 40 years ever since the 1973 Summerland holiday park fire on the Isle of Man that killed 50 people and injured 8 others seriously.
Since that disaster, Mr Barry adds, British tall buildings must be compliant with British safety standard BS476 which meet so-called Class '0' standard that allow for "no surface spread of flames"
And, according to The National, in March 2015, 'flammable cladding materials, comprising plastic or polyurethane fillings-called a thermo-plastic core-sandwiched between aluminium panels, have been blamed for spreading fires at both the Al Baker Tower 4 and the Al Tayer Tower in Sharjah in 2012."
Around a million British nationals visit the UAE every years, many to enjoy Dubai's endless shopping malls and winter sunshine breaks-it is possible that many are at serious risk every time they step into their hotels and office blocks.