DUBAI: Smoke was still rising from a 63-storey luxury hotel in Dubai on Friday as authorities worked to determine the cause of a spectacular fire that engulfed the building on New Year’s Eve.
The huge blaze at The Address Downtown hotel erupted around 9:30 pm (1730 GMT) on Thursday, sparking panic but no reports of serious injuries.
Authorities went ahead with a dazzling fireworks display at the nearby Burj Khalifa — the world’s tallest skyscraper — despite the inferno, the latest in a series of fires in recent years to hit the buildings that make up Dubai’s futuristic cityscape.
Officials have said the fire erupted from the outside of the building on its 20th floor but the exact cause was not yet known.
A top Dubai security official, General Dahi Khalfan, posted a picture on Twitter of a fire beneath a ledge of the building, saying the start of the blaze had been captured by a police criminal investigation photographer.
“This is where the search begins,” Khalfan wrote of the picture, which appeared to show a lower portion of the building.
Witnesses described scenes of panic after the fire spread, with residents screaming and some fainting as they rushed to evacuate the building.
Still, authorities said only 16 people had suffered mostly minor injuries.
At least 14 people were slightly injured, one was moderately injured and one person suffered a heart attack during the evacuation, the government said.
Firefighters spent the night trying to extinguish the blaze.
– Residents open homes –
Heavy black smoke still billowed from several floors of the hotel early on Friday, an AFP photographer said, as firefighters continued to douse the building with water hoses.
Roads leading directly to the hotel were closed but otherwise Dubai city centre appeared normal, with passers-by stopping to take pictures of the building with their mobile phones.
The hashtag #NeedanAddress trended on Twitter overnight as Dubai residents offered to open their homes to evacuated hotel guests.
“We have sofas, sleeping bags and an endless supply of love. Plus Nutella. #needanaddress #mydubai You’re not alone. You’re home,” resident Faizan Jamal Tweeted.
“This #NeedanAddress thing is awesome. Good going, Dubai,” Omar Adam wrote.
Many on Twitter praised the response of fire and emergency services, pointing to the fact that there were no major injuries, though some questioned whether New Year’s festivities should have gone ahead.
“Bizarre response of authorities in Dubai. Surely fireworks could have waited till tomorrow?” Sumbal Naqi wrote.
The Dubai government said evacuated guests were being offered alternative accommodation and provided a telephone number to call for assistance.