Skyscraper close to one of the world’s largest New Year fireworks displays has burst into flames.
The huge Address Downtown hotel in Dubai is in flames just before the scheduled New Year celebrations. It is not known what has caused the quick-spreading blaze, which is sending plumes of smoke over the city, at this stage. Witnesses say debris is raining from the hotel, with a large security presence on scene to reassure bystanders.
Incredibly, a civil defence official says no one is injured and that the fireworks will go ahead as planned. Nearly all the floors in the 63-storey building are now on fire, after the blaze started on the outside of the building on the 20th floor. The nearby area, including a shopping mall, has been evacuated. Dubai is a popular destination for western tourists, particularly at New Year.
The Dubai government’s media office tweeted that civil defence teams were working to evacuate the 300-metre hotel and tackle the fire. It said internal fire-fighting systems were operating to try to prevent it getting inside the hotel. Reports suggest the fire started on one of the hotel’s balconies.
Major General Rashed al-Matrushi, general director of the Dubai Civil Defence, said: “There are no injuries, thank God of course, it will not affect the celebration.”
Dubai celebrates New Year at 8pm UK time. The city’s large fireworks display was set to start nearby from the Burj Khalifa tower, the world’s largest building. Footage has emerged showing inhabitants being evacuated as the fire took hold. Eyewitnesses say they have “never seen anything burn so quickly”.
Scott Sashua, a guest at The Address, wrote on Twitter: “Our whole hotel has just gone up in flames just as we was about to tuck in to our NYE dinner #TheAddress Dubai.”
Another, Katy Bow, wrote on Twitter: “Oh my god – fire at the Address hotel, Downtown Dubai. Hope everyone is safe, it’s so busy out there.”
— Caroline (@Caroline1mcd) December 31, 2015
Dubai still plans to wow spectators with three separate firework displays, with the Burj Khalifa fitted with 400,000 LED lights. They said 1.6 tonnes of fireworks would be used in the display. The reaction to the decision to proceed with the fireworks in light of the huge blaze has been met with incredulity.
From there, the fireworks were to light up the sky around the sail-shaped Burj Al Arab and later down near the Dubai Marina.