MORE than 100 people were evacuated from an office building in the Diplomatic Area when a lit cigarette caused a blaze.
The fire broke out on the 10th floor of the 29-storey Era Business Centre building at around 10am yesterday, and it took more than 40 firemen and seven fire trucks to put it out.
A Civil Defence official told the GDN the fire was caused by a lit cigarette that was dumped in a trash bin in the balcony of the 10th floor, which quickly spread inside the building.
However, it was only contained in one of the offices.
“We found a cigarette butt in the trash bin in the balcony on the 10th floor, where the fire broke out,” he told the GDN at the scene.
“A person was smoking a cigarette and did not put it out and threw it in the bin.
“This caused the fire to spread to the office and caused damages to part of the 10th floor.
“We see several cases of negligence where people just throw their cigarettes without properly putting them out.”
An Indian man, who was seen with soot on his face, described his shock when he saw thick smoke billowing into the sky from the balcony.
“Luckily nothing bad happened to me,” he told the GDN on the condition of anonymity.
“I was on the same floor as the fire and the blaze spread quickly from the balcony.
“All the employees ran out and it could have been much worse.”
A Lebanese man, who was inside the building at the time, said there was a rush of people running down the flight of stairs when they spotted smoke from the windows of their offices.
“The fire alarms did not go off, which was dangerous, so we initially had no idea about the fire,” said the 39-year-old who works in an advertising agency.
“We saw thick smoke outside of our office window and decided to run down the flight of stairs.
“We were extremely exhausted due to being on the 20th floor, but we had to run to safety.”
Another man said he heard people screaming “fire, fire” which prompted him and his colleagues to run out of the building to safety.
“I was in my office on the 20th floor and was doing my job like any regular day,” said the 40-year-old Syrian man.
“Initially there was no smell of smoke but we heard women scream ‘fire, fire’ as they ran down the stairs.
“My colleagues and I also went down the stairs but I saw people using the elevator, which is dangerous to do when there is a fire.
“However, firemen then showed up quickly and put out the blaze.”
One lawyer, who was on the 14th floor of the building, said he quickly grabbed important documents from his desk and used the elevator to exit the building.
“I did not panic because the worst thing to do in that situation is to panic,” said 29-year-old Bahraini.
“If you are going to die, you are going to die, it is fate.
“I returned to my office minutes after firemen put out the blaze.”