A massive fire has overtaken a hotel in Dubai, the largest city in the United Arab Emirates, just hours before a New Year’s Eve fireworks display that’s still set to go ahead.
The fire erupted in the Address Downtown in Dubai, where thousands of people have gathered to watch the fireworks. The 63-storey hotel and residence is close to the world-famous Burj Khalifa, the largest skyscraper in the world, where the fireworks display are set to go off. The inferno appears to have broken out around 10 p.m. local time.
Despite the conflagration, local officials say the fireworks will go ahead as planned.
Dubai officials said on Twitter it appears the blaze started on the outside of the hotel and has not spread to its interior. Four fire squads are on scene to battle the flames.
Twitter posts from a woman whose profile says she hails from Toronto show spectators streaming away from the massive blaze.
She and a friend can be heard expressing their horror as they watch the flames engulf the tower.
Dubai officials on social media have said emergency responders are on scene. They say the fire broke out on the 20th floor.
Local media report as many as two million people were expected downtown in Dubai to celebrate the start of 2016.
The tower is completely covered in flames in myriad videos posted to social media. Burning debris “rained down” from the tower onto nearby buildings and possibly spectators, the Associated Press reports.
There are no reported casualties, Al Arabiya reports, citing local civil defense officials.
Though the show is expected to go on, smoke clouded the view in downtown Dubai about an hour after the fire started. Nonetheless, the 1.6 tons of fireworks strapped to the Burj Khalifa and the 400,000 LED lights deployed are still expected to welcome 2016, even with a cloud of smoking hanging over the festivities.
— more to come