Fire engulfs Dubai hotel ahead of NYE celebrations, minor injuries reported
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Fire broke out Thursday in a residential building near the world’s tallest skyscraper in Dubai, where a massive New Year’s fireworks display is set to be held.
It was not immediately clear what caused the fire, which ran up at least 20 stories of The Address Hotel, near the Burj Khalifa.
Burning debris rained down from the building as firetrucks raced to the scene. On Twitter, Dubai officials confirmed there were 14 minor injuries due to the fire, as well as one moderate injury. Another person suffered from a heart attack due to “over crowding and smoke at the fire site.”
Four squads of firefighters were on scene working on the blaze, which has not spread from the hotel, Dubai officials tweeted. They also claim the fire appears to have originated outside the 2oth floor of the hotel.
The fire broke out about two hours before midnight, when the fireworks display was set to begin.
Dubai officials confirmed the fireworks display would go ahead as planned. Organizers had expected a million people to attend.
Dubai planned to wow spectators with three separate firework displays. The show was to begin at the Burj Khalifa, which organizers said was fitted with 400,000 LED lights. They said 1.6 tons of fireworks would be used in the display.
From there, the fireworks were to light up the sky around the sail-shaped Burj Al Arab and later down near the Dubai Marina. Fireworks also will be on display in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the country of seven emirates.
Tens of thousands of people had gathered in the area ahead of the extravaganza. Many caught the scene on camera and shared it on social media.
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 the blaze with her husband, Stephen, standing behind her. They said they hoped no one was injured.
“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.
Wtih files from Rebecca Joseph.
© 2015 The Associated Press