Huge Fire Engulfs 63-Storey Dubai Hotel Ahead Of New Year Celebrations, 16 Injured
The fire at the hotel, The Address Downtown Dubai, occurred just hours before a fireworks display was scheduled to take place nearby.
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.
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.
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.