A luxury hotel in downtown Dubai was engulfed by an inferno Thursday night as hundreds of thousands of New Year’s Eve revelers gathered in the United Arab Emirates’ biggest city — but it did not derail the annual fireworks extravaganza.
At the stroke of midnight, the skies over the city were painted by a colorful pyrotechnical display while firefighters continued to battle the stubborn blaze devouring the facade of The Address Hotel.
Meanwhile, Dubai officials were counting their blessings and resettling the escapees from the burning 63-story tower, which is located just down the street from the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building.
“There are no injuries, thank God … of course, it will not affect the celebration,” Maj. Gen. Rashed al-Matrushi, general director of the Dubai Civil Defence, told the live broadcast.
Dubai government’s media office reported there were 14 minor injuries, including one person who suffered a heart attack.
On its Twitter feed, the media office said civil defense teams were working to evacuate the building, which also houses private residences and a mall. The blaze reportedly started outside the 20th floor of the hotel, but “has not spread inside,” the media office said.
“Internal fire extinguishers are preventing spread of fire inside the hotel. Four squads of firefighters are working to control a fire.”
Dubai, like most of the world’s major cities, has been on high alert for possible terror attacks. But there were no indications of terrorism in this fire.
Margaret Besheer, an American vacationing in Dubai, 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 told MSNBC.
Lama Noppel, who lives in the Burj Khalifa, said they heard “a very, very loud explosion” before the fire broke out. She said the air smells like burning plastic and scoffed at government claims the blaze was under control.
“The fire is definitely not contained as authorities are saying,” she said.
The Address complex is the 19th tallest building in Dubai at nearly 1,000-feet tall. It is a mixed-used complex, with residences, rentals, retail and dining. Wolfgang Puck runs a restaurant in the complex.
Dubai is one of seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a Gulf Arab trade and investment hub.