Friday, 1 January 2016

Huge Fire Engulfs 63-Storey Dubai Hotel Ahead Of New Year Celebrations, 16 Injured

Huge Fire Engulfs 63-Storey Dubai Hotel Ahead Of New Year Celebrations, 16 Injured
A fire engulfs The Address Hotel in downtown Dubai in the United Arab Emirates on December 31, 2015. (Reuters photo)
DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES:  A luxury hotel skyscraper in Dubai was engulfed in flames after a fire broke out Thursday, causing an evacuation of a large crowd from the downtown area that had gathered for New Year's Eve.

The fire at the hotel, The Address Downtown Dubai, occurred just hours before a fireworks display was scheduled to take place nearby. Fourteen people were reported to have suffered minor injuries and another person was moderately injured, the media office of the government of Dubai said on Twitter. One person at the site had a heart attack, it said.

Local officials said that the hotel's guests and staff were evacuated, as were the large crowds that had gathered around the hotel, causing traffic jams as motorists tried to get away from the scene.

It was a very windy evening, and the fire raged through the middle and upper floors of the 63-storey building. More than an hour after the fire broke out, the government said the blaze was 90 percent under control, although images on television appeared to show that it was continuing to burn.

As four crews of firefighters worked to bring it under control, the government said the New Year's festivities would go on as planned. At midnight, fireworks were unleashed into the night sky, which was still lit up by the flames from the burning hotel.
People run away as a fire engulfs the nearby The Address Hotel (not pictured) in downtown Dubai in the United Arab Emirates on December 31, 2015. (Reuters photo)
Crowds gathered on the streets below cheered and applauded the show.

The government media office said on Twitter that the fire "originated from outside" the 20th floor of the hotel and that internal fire systems had prevented it from spreading inside. The media office gave no further explanation as to how the fire started.

Zeina Mandour, 35, who was staying with a relative in an apartment on the 39th floor, said in a telephone interview that she heard an explosion around 9:50 p.m. When she looked out the window, she said she saw black smoke and flames. She could feel the heat of the flames from inside the apartment, she said.

Mandour said she and her family dashed out of the apartment and began knocking on neighbors' doors and shouting for everyone inside to leave. As her family and other people made their way down the stairs - the group included a pregnant woman and a person in a wheelchair who had to be helped by security guards - the building's fire alarm sounded, she said.

"We're tired and stressed," she said from the Dubai Mall, where her family and other guests of the hotel had gathered. She expressed relief that her family had made it out safely.

The hotel, which opened in 2008, includes traditional guest rooms and luxury apartments that are used as long-term residences or investment properties. It is part of an opulent complex that includes a shopping mall with a giant aquarium, a theme park and a 22-screen cinema, and a fountain in a lake that shoots water as high as 500 feet. The hotel is steps from the Burj Khalifa, which is generally recognized as the world's tallest building.

Dubai, with a population of 2 million, is the largest city of the United Arab Emirates and has worked to build itself as a major tourist and investment destination. In 2009, Dubai received a financial bailout from Abu Dhabi, another of the emirates. The Burj Khalifa, which opened in 2010, was originally named the Burj Dubai but was renamed, after the bailout, in honor of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the emir of Abu Dhabi.