Plumes of smoke billow from luxury hotel as Dubai fireworks go ahead

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DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES—A massive fireworks display kicked off for New Year’s at the world’s tallest tower in Dubai, while plumes of smoke billowed in the air from a fire raging at a nearby tower.

Tens of thousands of people whistled and cheered at the display taking place at the Burj Khalifa.

Meanwhile, teams of firefighters were working to put out a blaze that has engulfed a 63-story luxury hotel and residential building. At least 14 people were slightly injured and one person suffered a heart attack from the smoke and over-crowding during evacuation late Thursday.

Fire engulfed the luxury building as tens of thousands of people were gathering at its base for one of the world’s largest New Year’s fireworks displays.

A fire engulfs The Address Hotel in downtown Dubai on New Year's Eve.

AHMED JADALLAH

A fire engulfs The Address Hotel in downtown Dubai on New Year’s Eve.

Burning debris rained down from the building as fire trucks raced to the scene. It was not immediately clear what caused the fire, which ran up the 63-story building. The Address Downtown Dubai is a 302-meter skyscraper that has 626 luxury apartments and 196 hotel rooms, according to Skyscraper Center, which tracks skyscrapers.

The building was likely to have been packed with people because of its clear view of the 828-meter tall Burj Khalifa, where the fireworks display was to take place. The hotel towers over the Souq Al Bahar, a popular shopping area with walkways that connect to the Burj Khalifa and the Middle East’s largest mall, the Dubai Mall.

Dubai’s Media Office wrote on its official Twitter account that four teams of firefighters were working to put out the blaze. They said the fire appears to have originated on a 20th floor terrace.

About 15 minutes before midnight, large explosions could be heard from inside the burning building. It was not clear what caused the blasts. The building was cloaked in thick black smoke.

The fire broke out about two hours before midnight, when the fireworks display was set to begin. To manage the crowds, Dubai police had closed off some roads and the metro before the fire broke out.

Nearly an hour after the fire began, some onlookers began to leave while others stood, pressed against crowd barricades, watching the blaze. Among them was Chris Browne, a tourist from London, who watched with her husband, Stephen, standing behind her. They said they hoped no one was injured.

Medics evacuate a wounded person outside the Address Downtown Dubai.

AHMED JADALLAH/Reuters

Medics evacuate a wounded person outside the Address Downtown Dubai.

“It’s pretty scary stuff,” she said.

Standing nearby, Stuart O’Donnell, a British intensive care nurse who works in Dubai, said he was worried for those inside the building as it was in a prime location to watch the fireworks display.

“You feel sad for the people inside … It spread so quickly when it started,” he said.

He and others in the crowd wondered what had started the blaze. “I do feel suspicious of when a fire breaks out on New Year’s Eve,” he said.

Thousands gathered in Dubai for a massive fireworks display to kick off the new year. Raw video.

The blaze comes almost two years after a fire ripped through the Dubai Marina Torch, one of the world’s tallest residential buildings. In 2012, the Tamweel tower in the Jumeirah Lake Towers district neighbouring the marina was also wrecked by fire.

With files from the Bloomberg

31/12/2015 17:01  By: TORONTO STAR

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