Middle East

Dubai seeks cause of massive hotel fire at New Year

Plumes of smoke rise from the 63-storey Address Downtown hotel and residential block near the Burj Khalifa, a day after the hotel caught fire on New Year's Eve, Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Smoke is still billowing from the stricken hotel (right) - the Burj Khalifa is on the left

The authorities in Dubai are trying to find out what caused a spectacular fire to engulf a 63-storey luxury hotel in the city centre on New Year's Eve.

After battling for more than 20 hours, firefighters appear to have extinguished most of the blaze at the Address Downtown Hotel.

An eyewitness has told the BBC only a couple of small isolated fires are still burning.

The tower was evacuated and 16 people were hurt.

A fireworks show went ahead at the Burj Khalifa tower nearby, the world's tallest building and an iconic symbol of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Video and pictures taken by resident Malcolm Carter and sent to the BBC showed the fire that burned on the terrace area earlier on Friday morning had been put out and significantly less smoke was coming from the building.

The pictures show the facade facing the Burj Khalifa had been severely damaged by fire and smoke, and that all floors from the lower area of the building to the upper levels were affected.

The cause of the blaze, which is said to have started on the 20th floor, is still not known.

The BBC's Marcus George in Dubai says streets around the Address Downtown Hotel have been cordoned off, but boulevards around the Burj Khalifa are open.

Image copyright Marcus George, BBC
Image copyright AP
Image copyright Getty Images
Image copyright EPA
Image caption How the inferno dominated the Dubai skyline at New Year

The fire broke out at about 21:30 local time (17:30 GMT) and appeared to engulf much of the Address Downtown, a five-star hotel and apartment complex, within 10 minutes.

Four teams of firefighters battled the blaze for hours, officials said.

The Dubai government tweeted that 14 people had suffered minor injuries, one moderate injuries and there was one "heart attack case" due to "overcrowding and smoke".

Irish singer Anita Williams, who was performing at the hotel, told the BBC that people left in a "stampede".

"We left everything. There was debris falling down. It [the fire] just shot up through the entire hotel.

"Everybody was screaming, everybody was running... I thought: 'This is a film'."

Media captionEyewitness Charles White: ''Within five minutes the whole tower on the left-hand side was engulfed in flames - it was very quick to watch''
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Smoke from the fire could be seen obscuring the view of the illuminated Burj Khalifa ahead of the display
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The spectacular fireworks display at the Burj Khalifa went ahead despite the nearby blaze

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.

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, says BBC World Service Middle East editor Sebastian Usher.

Tom Stroud, from London, who is staying near to the hotel, said: "It happened so quickly. There was smoke billowing everywhere and people running away."

A 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."

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