January 01, 2015 \ Reuters
DUBAI (Reuters) – Firefighters on Friday appeared to have mostly extinguished a blaze that suddenly engulfed one of Dubai’s most prominent skyscrapers on New Year’s Eve, according to Reuters witnesses.
Plumes of white smoke still emanated from the charred, 63-storey Address Downtown Dubai hotel and residential block at daybreak, but civil defense crews had mostly extinguished the flames which erupted around 2130 (1730 GMT).
Dubai police said on Thursday that the building was evacuated and only 14 people were lightly injured, but a medic at the scene said more than 60 people were treated for mild smoke inhalation and problems caused by crowding as they fled the site.
Witnesses described seeing flaming debris wafting down from The Address as occupants left, some running.
The New Year’s fireworks display at the nearby Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, is one of Dubai’s most celebrated annual rites and attracted thousands of spectators – most of whom were evacuated before the spectacle went on as scheduled.
Live TV broadcasts of the extravaganza appeared to show only a few dozen people in the vast viewing venue near the tower.
Dubai, among the most open and peaceful cities in the war-battered Middle East, prides itself as a tourist and business hub.
But the metropolis, one of seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates (UAE), may face questions about the safety of its rapidly-constructed cityscape, especially after another famous high-rise caught fire earlier this year.
A hotel representative and the Dubai civil defense did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment on the cause of the Address Downtown fire.
Security officials said the conflagration began on the outside of the structure at the 20th floor, and the deputy chief of police said the investigation into its cause was underway.
Dhahi Khalfan posted a picture of a fireball toward the hotel’s base on his official twitter account on Friday.
“A forensic photographer from the Dubai police with the lens of his camera, from here the investigation begins,” he said.
(Reporting By Ahmed Jadallah, Abdul Hadi al-Ramahi and Noah Browning; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)