A huge fire has engulfed a Dubai skyscraper on Thursday just hours before New Year’s celebrations, with a number of explosions heard in and around the building.
The massive blaze quickly shot up the 63-story Address Hotel in the downtown area of the Gulf metropolis, covering nearly the entire structure and sending hundreds of people fleeing for safety.
“The left side of the hotel is completely gone,” Al Jazeera’s Diana al-Rifai reported from the scene. “There was a minor stampede – panic set in and people ran away.”
By 2100 GMT, authorities said the fire had largely been brought under control, injuring at least 16 people.
Earlier, the government of Dubai’s media office had said on Twitter that 14 people had been injured, including a person who suffered a heart attack while trying to run away. One news report said that one person had died, but there was no official confirmation.
Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Jamjoom, is also reporting from Dubai, said that as of Friday morning, all roads leading to the hotel were still blocked by authorities.
“Certainly this is the last thing that anybody who was at the Address Hotel last night would have expected,” he said, adding that the building is one of the most secured in the area.
The “very luxurious” building is usually packed with local and foreign revelers this time of the year wanting to see the firework display.
The blaze started on the 20th floor of the building and only affected the outside of the structure, Dubai’s media office said.
Rifai said big pieces of the building fell from the sky and thick black smoke blanketed the entire city. Helicopters hovered around the blaze, she said.
Oshaeni Idahosa, a resident at The Address, said: “When we looked out it was fire on the balcony. We started running out.
“I’m still in shock. The sprinklers didn’t come out, there were no sprinklers. There’s no fire alarm.”
It was not immediately clear what caused the blaze, which ran up dozens of stories of the building near the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest skyscraper at 828 metres.
Despite the massive fire, the New Year’s Eve fireworks show nearby at the Burj went ahead as planned.