Dubai (PTI): An Indian couple who died in a major fire at an apartment in Dubai, which killed 16 people, were preparing an iftar meal for their neighbours, a media report has said.

Rijesh Kalangadan, 38, and his wife Jeshi Kandamangalath, 32, both from Kerala, were preparing Vishusadhya, a Hindu harvest festival meal, for their Muslim neighbours to end their fast on Saturday evening.

At least 16 were killed and nine others were injured in the blaze in the Al Ras area, which Dubai Civil Defence attributed to a lack of compliance with building security and safety requirements.

Kalangadan was a business development manager with a travel and tourism company while Kandamangalath was a school teacher.

The couple were celebrating Vishu on Saturday. They were making Vishusadhya, a vegetarian festival feast served on a banana leaf, and had invited their Muslim neighbours, a group of bachelors from Kerala, for iftar, the Gulf News reported.

Riyas Kaikambam, who lived with seven roommates in apartment number 409, said the couple who lived in 406 adjacent to flat 405 where the fire started was very friendly.

The couple used to invite Kaikambam and his roommates during their festivals.
"They had invited us during Onam and Vishu lunches earlier also. This time, they told us to come for iftar as it is Ramzan."

Kaikambam said he last saw the couple outside their apartment. "I could see the teacher was crying," he recalled, adding that the couple went back into their studio flat.

"There was no response to calls later. I could see Rijesh's last seen status on WhatsApp at 12.35 pm. I just can't believe the man who helped me book my flight ticket for Sunday, the man who invited me for iftar, is gone (along with his wife)."

His roommate Suhail Kopa, who was not home during the fire, said: "We are so devastated about losing our neighbours. They are people whom we used to meet and greet every day. It is heartbreaking to think of going to live in the same place where we lost 16 neighbours, some of whom were close to us."

The Dubai Civil Defence Operations Room was notified about the fire at 12.35 pm on Saturday, officials said.

A team from the Dubai Civil Defence headquarters arrived at the site of the blaze and began evacuating residents from the building.

Teams from the Port Saeed Fire Station and the Hamriyah Fire Station were also summoned.

The flames were doused by 2:42 pm (local time), the paper said.

Around 3 pm, the civil defence team rescued the occupants on the third floor by cranes.

According to the Khaleej Times newspaper, eyewitnesses said they saw flames billowing out of the building.

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London, Jun 10: Australia declared their second innings at 270 for 8 on day four, setting India a mammoth 444-run target to the win the World Test Championship final here on Saturday.

Australia had taken a massive first-innings lead of 173.

Resuming at 123 for 4 on Saturday, they added 147 runs before skipper Pat Cummins declared the innings an hour into the post-lunch session on the fourth day.

Alex Carey was the top-scorer for Australia in the second innings, scoring an unbeaten 66.

Mohammed Shami (2/39), Ravindra Jadeja (3/58), Umesh Yadav (2/54) and picked up the four wickets for India on day four.

Ajinkya Rahane (89) and Shardul Thakur (51) had guided India to 296 in the first innings after the top order collapsed.

Brief Scores:

Australia: 469 and 270 for 8 declared in 84.3 overs (Alex Carey 66 not out, Mitchell Starc 41, Ravindra Jadeja 3/58).

India 1st Innings: 296.