A massive, multi-story fire broke out in 63-story hotel in downtown Dubai hotel late Thursday, near where thousands of people had gathered to watch a New Year’s Eve fireworks display.
The Government of Dubai Media Office reported 14 minor injuries, one moderate injury and a heart attack due to overcrowding and smoke at the site. The office tweeted that all of the injured got prompt medical assistance.
The Address Downtown Dubai is a five-star hotel in the heart of the city, located in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It has 196 rooms, 626 residences and eight restaurants and bars. It is next door to Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower at 2,722 feet. It is part of a mixed-use, large-scale development called Downtown Dubai. The hotel is also flanked by the Dubai Mall, the world’s largest shopping and entertainment center.
The BBC reported that black smoke and burning debris could be seen as firefighters arrived at the scene. Crowds gathering to watch the New Year’s Eve display were asked to leave the area around the hotel.
Margaret Besheer, an American vacationing in Dubai, told MSNBC that was dining on a nearby terrace when she looked up to see a fire on a lower balcony.
“It just spread very rapidly, I’d say within six or seven minutes, the entire side of the building was just engulfed in flames,” she said.
Another tourist, Michelle Duque, told the BBC: “All of a sudden we saw this huge black plume of black smoke coming” between the Khalifa Tower and the hotel. “The flames burst out really big and before we knew it the whole of the Address Hotel was covered in orange flames.”
Al Jazeera reported that one side of the hotel was “completely gone.”
The government media office confirmed the fire on its Twitter feed and said authorities are “on site to address the incident swiftly and safely.” The fire started on the 20th floor and was confined to an outside tower, the media office said. At least four fire department squads had responded to the scene.
Jaqueline Hurtado, a CNN en Español correspondent, reported that she was at a restaurant in the area when she heard an explosion, “like a loud pop,” and thought the fireworks display may have started early. “That fire was big. The fire was just going so fast,” she said. “It just started burning real quick.”
She and others were evacuated from the area.
The media office said that New Year’s Eve celebrations would go on as planned. Downtown Dubai had advertised an elaborate fireworks display that took six months to prepare. Up to two million people were expected in central Dubai for the fireworks, the BBC reported.