Fire engulfs Dubai hotel ahead of New Year celebrations


A huge fire engulfed a 63-storey hotel in central Dubai ahead of a 2015 New Year's Eve firework display.

Despite the blaze at the Address hotel, the display at the nearby Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, started as planned at midnight.

Officials say the fire has been brought largely under control and 16 people suffered mostly minor injuries.

It is unclear what caused the blaze, which broke out as large crowds had gathered to ring in the New Year.

People were asked to leave the area around the Address Downtown Hotel, which was evacuated.  The fire broke out at about 21:30 local time (17:30 GMT) and appeared to engulf much of the building, a five-star hotel and apartment complex, within 10 minutes.

At the scene: Nadia Huraimi, BBC News, Dubai stated, as I watched the flames engulf the massive building, I knew right away it was the Address Hotel in Dubai's downtown district that overlooks Burj Khalifa. I also knew that it was fully booked five years in advance. 

The blaze started on the 20th floor and did not spread inside the building, officials said.

The fireworks display went ahead as smoke continued to billow from the hotel.  Alternative accommodation would be offered to evacuated guests, the Dubai government said.

BBC World Service Middle East editor Sebastian Usher says the display is a hugely prestigious event for Dubai, and authorities want the images that people look back on next year to be of the fireworks - and not of the blaze.

The 200-room hotel - which also boasts 600 private apartments - would likely have been packed with people waiting in their rooms for the best view of the fireworks display at the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest skyscraper, which sits just across the lake from The Address.  Organizers had installed 400,000 LED lights on the Burj Khalifa and used some 1.6 tons of fireworks for the seven-minute extravaganza.

Two years ago on New Year's, Dubai broke the world record for the largest fireworks display. 

Dubai buildings "infernos waiting to happen"

Hundreds of Dubai’s tallest buildings are infernos waiting to happen, a leading fire safety expert has told the Telegraph's Peter Foster and Louisa Loveluck in Dubai, after a New Year’s Eve skyscraper fire raised serious concerns about the safety of buildings throughout the Emirates.


Here are the key developments:

• Flames engulfed the exterior of the luxury 63-storey hotel ‘The Address’ within a matter of seconds, tearing up the outside of the building “like paper” according to onlookers and creating a stampede of New Years’ revellers fleeing for their lives.

• The fire - the third major skyscraper fire in Dubai since 2012 – has raised renewed fears about the use of highly combustible materials on the exterior facades of hundreds of skyscrapers throughout the UAE.

• Miraculously no-one was killed in the blaze at The Address, which lit up the Dubai skyline three hours before midnight.  Dubai authorities confirmed that only 16 people had suffered mostly minor injuries, with only two victims, including a pregnant woman, remaining in hospital overnight for precautionary observations.

• At the heart of safety concerns is the use of polyurethane and aluminium composite cladding on buildings throughout the height of the emirate’s building boom.  The material was only outlawed by new buildings regulations in 2013.  Mr Barry, who served 30 years as a UK fire fighter before becoming a senior lecturer in fire safety at the national fire service college in Gloucestershire, estimates that some 70 per cent of Dubai’s high rise buildings could be clad in the flammable materials.

• An employee at a shop at the base of the tower, described the moment the fire took hold of The Address which opened in May 2008 and is the 18th tallest building in the city and 93rd highest in the world. He stated: The flames raced up more quickly than anyone can imagine.  It was horrible, horrible to watch. We thought there must be so many people in there, but then the stampede began. It is a miracle no one was killed.

• Dubai government's media office issued a civil defence statement saying that security services were “investigating the causes and circumstances of the fire” at The Address but passed no further comment on causes.

Photos show the devastation left by the huge blaze as investigators probe the cause of the massive New Year's Eve fire that tore through the 63-storey building.  The first images from inside the five-star Dubai hotel ravaged by a massive New Year's Eve fire show the scale and devastation caused by the raging inferno. 

Fire fighters managed to subdue the fire, but the luxury building remained smouldering.  Photographs taken inside the skyscraper illustrate the destruction caused by the huge flames.

Story collated by Liz Turnbull.

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