Authorities in Dubai say they are working to determine the cause of the fire that engulfed a 63-storey luxury hotel in the city on New Year’s Eve even as firefighters continue to douse its embers.
The fire erupted before the city’s fireworks extravaganza and engulfed the Address Downtown, comprising hotels and residences in Dubai, one of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates.
The authorities said on Friday 16 people suffered mostly minor injuries despite the presence of thousands in the area to watch the celebrations.
At least 14 people were slightly injured, one was moderately injured and one person suffered a heart attack during the evacuation, they said.
All victims have been discharged from hospital except for a pregnant women and an elderly man who were said to be “well” but were kept in “to ensure their safety”, the civil defence said.
Firefighters spent Thursday night trying to extinguish the blaze.
Despite the fire, officials went ahead with plans to ring in the new year and thousands gathered in the area to watch the fireworks.
The Address Downtown would have been a prime spot for viewing the midnight fireworks display, centred at the nearby Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building.
The Address Downtown boasts a luxury hotel with nearly 200 rooms, along with more than 600 residential units. Rentals of a one-bedroom can run $70,000 a year.
The fire started around 9:30pm on Thursday, racing up the sides of the Address Downtown.
More than 12 hours later on Friday morning, Dubai firefighters largely watched the fire from the ground, 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 on Friday for business, but served limited menus as civil defence officials cut natural gas to the area.
By the afternoon, the blaze had largely died down, but small fires were still visible burning through some windows, sending smoke into the air.
Dubai Civil Defence said the fire appeared to have started on the 20th-floor terrace, according to a statement by the government media office.
Witnesses who saw the blaze start said they believed it began on the building’s ground floor.
Civil defence said “cooling procedures” were still under way on Friday, and that the investigation was under way into the cause.
Around one 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 Dubai puts on at the world’s tallest tower, as well as the Burj Al Arab and over a palm-shaped artificial island.
Dubai-based Emaar Properties, which built the Burj Khalifa, the Address Downtown and other surrounding developments, issued a statement praising authorities “for their immediate and professional support”.
“An investigation is ongoing and details will be provided once they are ascertained,” the statement said.
Lieutenant-General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE’s deputy prime minister and interior minister, also praised first responders to the blaze for “the success of the rescue operation” in comments published by the state-run WAM news agency.
However, challenges remain as Dubai has faced a series of recent tower fires.
In November, a massive blaze engulfed three residential blocks in central Dubai and led to services on a metro line being suspended, although no one was hurt.
In February, a huge fire gutted one of the emirate’s tallest buildings, destroying luxury flats in the Torch tower and prompted an evacuation of nearby blocks in the Dubai Marina neighbourhood.
In 2012, a blaze destroyed the 34-storey Tamweel Tower in the nearby Jumeirah Lake Towers district. It was later revealed to have been caused by a cigarette butt thrown into a bin.
There were no serious casualties in that fire.
In October, a fire broke out in a high-rise residential tower in the neighbouring emirate of Sharjah.