One person is dead and more than a dozen injured after a massive fire overtook a tower in Dubai, the largest city in the United Arab Emirates, just hours before a New Year’s Eve fireworks display went off nearby.
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. Just an hour-and-a-half later, city officials confirmed the blaze was 90 per cent under control. Officials initially said there were only minor injuries, but one person is now reported dead as a result of a heart attack or stroke suffered amid the chaos.
Despite the conflagration, local officials announced the fireworks would go ahead as planned. The spectacular display went off as planned to ring in 2016 with a bang.
Officials also confirmed 14 minor injuries as a result of the blaze, as well as one “moderate injury” and the heart attack, but said all victims received medical attention. They said the reported injuries were a result of overcrowding at the site and smoke. No children were hurt.
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 battled 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 said the fire broke out outside of the 20th floor. The city has offered to find alternative accommodations for all guests and residents of the building.
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.
About 1.5 tonnes of fireworks strapped to the Burj Khalifa and the 400,000 LED lights deployed are still expected to welcomed 2016, even with a cloud of smoking hanging over the festivities.
In November, the Dubai fire department purchased 20 jetpacks to help it combat blazes in the cities many massive skyscrapers.
There is a history of fires in the tall towers in the Gulf city, and some have suggested they are the result of developers cutting corners as they quickly built up the bursting metropolis.
— more to come