One of the tallest skyscrapers in the world turned into an inferno after fire ripped through the 302m (990ft) Address building in Dubai in seconds, sending tourists who had gathered for the city’s famed New Year celebrations fleeing in panic.
But astonishingly it appeared that no one had been killed in the blaze at the tower, which contains the Address Downtown Dubai, a hotel popular with British tourists, and hundreds of luxury apartments. There were unconfirmed reports that up to 60 people had been injured.
The fire began as an estimated million people prepared to ring in the New Year and, even as the tower continued to burn, the famed fireworks display went ahead as planned at midnight.
Fire at Dubai skyscraper
Fire at Dubai skyscraper
The Address Downtown Dubai hotel on fire
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A fire runs up some 20 stories of a building in Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Fire engulfed the luxury building near the world's tallest skyscraper in Dubai as tens of thousands of people were gathering at its base for one of the world's largest New Year's fireworks displays
Flames and smoke after a fire broke out at The Address Hotel in Dubai
A fire engulfs The Address Hotel in downtown Dubai
Medics evacuate a wounded woman outside the Address Downtown Dubai hotel and residential block after a fire engulfed the skyscraper in downtown Dubai
Wounded people are seen outside the Address Downtown Dubai hotel and residential block after a fire engulfed the skyscraper
Local media say the hotel and the nearby Dubai Mall have been evacuated.
There have been at least 14 injuries, the government's media office reports.
14 minor injuries,1 moderate&1 heart attack case reported due 2 over-crowding&smoke at the fire site,all received prompts medical assistance— Dubai Media Office (@DXBMediaOffice) December 31, 2015
Eyewitnesses shared pictures and video of the blaze on social media.
People are running away! This is so horrific!!!!! Falling on people's houses pic.twitter.com/gq9AXEyTJr— Atieh S (@AtiehS) December 31, 2015
The 63-storey building had been packed with people waiting for the firework show to begin as it would have offered one of the best views in the city of the display, which centred on the nearby Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest skyscraper.
Moments after the fire broke out, much of the building was engulfed in flames fanned by strong winds and burning debris poured down on to the streets below. The cause is still not known.
Angus Villar, who was on the 15th floor when the fire began, told Sky News: “We ran out the room and got to the fire escape before the fire alarm had actually gone off, at which point there were already people running through the corridors.
“I ended up having to put somebody on my back who was in a wheelchair and carry them down to the ground floor. It was absolute pandemonium.”
Four squads of firefighters worked to control the fire, which started on the 20th floor of the hotel, the Government of Dubai Media Office tweeted.
It says fire extinguishers prevented the fire from spreading inside the hotel.
The fire at the Address Downtown reported to have originated from outside 20th floor of hotel, has not spread inside— Dubai Media Office (@DXBMediaOffice) December 31, 2015
Internal fire extinguishers are preventing spread of fire inside the hotel— Dubai Media Office (@DXBMediaOffice) December 31, 2015
Four squads of firefighters are working to control a fire that broke out at The Address hotel and ensure safety on the site— Dubai Media Office (@DXBMediaOffice) December 31, 2015
Dan Richardson, who was in the hotel bar, said: “We’d only been there about half an hour or so... and suddenly round the side of the building a cloud appears. Next thing you know the cloud sort of billows and the only way to describe it is something like Jurassic Park where you see one person out of the corner of your eye moving, then two, then there’s 10, and then suddenly the whole terrace we were on just started charging towards the door.”
Among the crowd waiting outside for the fireworks display to begin was Stuart O’Donnell, a British intensive care nurse who works in Dubai. “It spread so quickly when it started,” he said. Another spectator, British tourist Michelle Duque, who was with her son and daughter, told BBC News: “All of a sudden we saw this huge black plume of black smoke coming between the Khalifa Tower and the hotel.
“Within seconds after that we saw an orange flame, then the flames burst out really big and before we knew it the whole of the hotel was covered in orange flames. The fire was burning really quick and fast. It was really horrible to see.”
Josh Gatlin, an American who was standing near the Address tower, said the first thing he noticed was a sudden rise in temperature. “The only reason I turned around was I felt the heat on my back. Within seconds, it went from ‘hey, there’s a fire’ to ‘we need to not be where we are,’” he told CNN.
Although the hotel is next to the city's fireworks celebrations, no fireworks had been set off at the time of the fire.
New Year's Eve celebrations continued as scheduled, with an impressive fireworks display launched from the Burj Khalifa.
The Address hotel is the sixth-tallest building in the city, with 63 floors at 991 feet tall. It has nearly 200 rooms and over 600 apartments.