Authorities struggle to douse New Year blaze at Dubai hotel

Conflicting reports say the fire at the luxurious Downtown Address hotel started either on a terrace on the 20th floor, or the ground floor. Picture: AP
Conflicting reports say the fire at the luxurious Downtown Address hotel started either on a terrace on the 20th floor, or the ground floor. Picture: AP
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A towering inferno that engulfed a 63-story luxury hotel in Dubai on New Year’s Eve burned on into yesterday morning as firefighters tried to douse the flames.

The blaze at the Address Downtown, one of the most upscale hotels and residences in Dubai, comes after a series of fires striking the towers that make up the city’s futuristic skyline.

While officials said only 14 people suffered minor injuries in evacuating the building, the fire raised new questions about building safety for those living in the United Arab Emirates.

The fire started around 9:30pm on Thursday, racing up the sides of the building and sending thick smoke over the skyline. Authorities still conducted a midnight fireworks show at the nearby Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building.

More than 12 hours later, Dubai firefighters largely watched the fire from the ground, unable at one point to use a water hose on a ladder truck. They later regained water pressure and began spraying the building.

• READ MORE: Fire breaks out in Dubai near New Year’s Eve celebrations

Restaurants nearby opened for business, but served limited menus as civil defence officials cut natural gas to the area.

Dubai’s Media Office wrote on its official Twitter account that the fire appeared to have started on a 20th-floor terrace, although witnesses said they believed it began on the ground floor. No one has yet offered a cause.

Around 1 million people had been expected to gather around the Burj Khalifa to watch the fireworks. Dubai’s economy depends heavily on tourism, and New Year is one of the busiest seasons, drawing people from around the world to watch the fireworks at the world’s tallest tower, as well as the sail-shaped Burj Al Arab and over a man-made palm-shaped island.

Dubai has been challenged by a series of tower fires recently. In February last year, a similar blaze spread along the external cladding of the 86-story Torch tower, one of the world’s tallest residential buildings, while in October another fire broke out in a high-rise residential tower in the Emirati city of Sharjah.