Thursday, December 31, 2015 10:22 pm
Fire engulfed a 63-storey skyscraper in downtown Dubai near the world’s tallest building on Thursday night, but the block was successfully evacuated and there were only light injuries, the emirate’s police chief said.
Tongues of flame shot skywards from one side of the luxury Address Downtown Dubai hotel and residential block, which stands across a plaza from the 830-metre Burj Khalifa tower where people were gathering for a spectacular fireworks display due to mark the start of the New Year. Television pictures showing pieces of blazing debris raining down.
The Dubai government’s media office said the blaze had started on the 20th floor, on the outside of the 300-metre tower, and that internal fire-fighting systems were operating to try to prevent it getting inside the hotel. Four fire brigade teams were at the site.
The media office said the blaze was 90 percent under control. Police chief Major General Khamis Matar told Al Arabiya television:
“All residents of the hotel were evacuated and there are 14 injured, with light injuries.”
A medic on the scene who declined to be identified told Reuters: “There are more than 60 people injured with light injuries from smoke inhalation and from crowding while in the stairs evacuating the building.”
One resident staying on the 15th floor of the tower, completed in 2008, told Britain’s Sky News of “absolute pandemonium” as those inside realised the building was ablaze.
“The alarms went off when the building was already properly on fire,” he said.
FIREWORKS TO GO AHEAD
Major General Rashed al-Matrushi, general director of the Dubai Civil Defence, told the pan-Arab television channel Al Arabiya that the Burj Khalifa festivities would go ahead despite the fire, saying: “Of course, it will not affect the celebration.”
A Reuters correspondent saw police evacuating a viewing area near the base of the Burj Khalifa, where tourists and Dubai residents were set to enjoy one of the world’s largest pyrotechnic displays to usher in 2016.
Dubai is a trade, tourism and investment hub for the Gulf region, and is one of seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The 160-storey Burj Khalifa tower opened in 2010 and stands almost 830 metres (2,722 feet) tall.