More than a week after a warehouse went up in flames, releasing toxic fumes into the atmosphere, a nearby school — shut down to keep schoolchildren away from potentially harmful gases — has been allowed to re-open on October 23.
The warehouse, 2km east of Taleem's Greenfield Community School (GCS) at Dubai Investment Park, went up in flames on Oct-ober 11, resulting in suspected noxious gases leaking from the site. Dubai authorities told school officials to send students home on Wednesday (October 12) until tests could prove that the air in the area was free from toxic fumes.
A week after the fire, however, the Dubai Civil Defence (DCD) has notified the school that poisonous gases still pollute the air in the surrounding area. It was not immediately clear which chemicals were stored in the gutted warehouse.
On Wednesday, a DCD spokesperson said a subsequent check of air quality has proven it is safe for children to return. "The school has been given the go-signal to re-open on Sunday (October 23)," the spokesperson told XPRESS. He added that the shutdown was a precaution against possible exposure of youngsters to toxic fumes. "There was no need to evacuate the neighbouring communities."
However, when XPRESS visited the site on Wednesday, fumes were still coming out of the completely burnt-out depot, raising concerns that toxic gases could still be pervading the vicinity.
Residents in a nearby accommodation said they were unaware of the potentially toxic chemicals, while the DCD official said residents nearby need not worry as long as their windows are shut.
A resident of Al Sondos Apartments near GCS said he saw a huge black plume billowing for hours, but he stayed indoors and closed all the windows.
Clive Pierrepont, Director of Communications and Marketing at Taleem, told XPRESS that they were asked to evacuate the school at around 9.45am last Wednesday. "We have a well-rehearsed evacuation plan and a majority of the kids were out within an hour. There were no discernable signs of the fumes, but no one wanted to take a chance," he said.
They also got the air-conditioners and filters cleaned and had the air quality tested by an independent lab, which gave the all-clear. "But authorities sent us a second advice asking us to remain shut till October 23 as the area began to experience problems again when the site was being cleared."
The school is holding a meeting with parents to update them on the situation on Thursday. "We have no plans to shift the school," he added.