Dubai skryscraper fire raises questions

January 1, 2016, 8:29pm

AP on News24
Sunday Alamba, AP

Dubai - The fire that engulfed the 63-storey luxury hotel on New Year's Eve has raised new questions about building safety for those living in the United Arab Emirates.

The blaze at the Address Downtown, one of the most upscale hotels and residences in Dubai, comes after a series of fires striking the towers that provide this megacity its futuristic skyline.

Dubai officials said only 14 people suffered minor injuries in evacuating the building.

Dubai firefighters largely watched the fire from the ground on Friday, unable at one point to use a water hose on a ladder truck. They later regained water pressure and resumed spraying the building.

Restaurants nearby opened for business, but served limited menus as civil defence officials cut natural gas to the area.

By the afternoon, the fire had largely died down, but its embers still sent smoke into the air.

Dubai's media office said on Twitter that the fire appeared to have started on a 20th floor terrace, though witnesses who saw the blaze said they believed it began on the building's ground floor.

Around 1 million people had been expected to gather around the Burj Khalifa skyscraper to watch the fireworks.

Dubai's economy depends heavily on tourism and New Year's Eve is one of the busiest seasons, drawing people from around the world to watch the fireworks that the emirate puts on at the world's tallest tower, as well as the sail-shaped Burj Al Arab and over a man-made palm-shaped island.

Dubai-based Emaar Properties, which built the Burj Khalifa, the Address Downtown and other surrounding developments, declined to immediately answer.

"An investigation is ongoing and details will be provided once they are ascertained," the statement said.

Challenges remain as Dubai has faced a series of recent tower fires. In February, a similar blaze spread along the external cladding of Dubai's 86-story Torch tower, one of the world's tallest residential buildings. There were no serious casualties. In October, another fire broke out in a high-rise residential tower in the Emirati city of Sharjah.