DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A luxury hotel skyscraper in Dubai was engulfed in flames after a fire broke out Thursday, causing an evacuation of a large crowd from the downtown area that had gathered for New Year’s Eve.
The fire at the hotel, The Address Downtown Dubai, occurred just hours before a fireworks display was scheduled to take place nearby. Teams of firefighters battled the flames for hours, and by midnight, when fireworks were unleashed not far from the burning building, the pyrotechnics further illuminated the night sky to the cheers of crowds gathered in the streets.
Fourteen people were reported to have suffered minor injuries and another person was moderately injured as a result of the crowds and smoke at the scene of the fire, the media office of the government of Dubai said on Twitter. One person at the site had a heart attack, it said.
Local officials said that the hotel’s guests and staff had been evacuated, and so had the large crowds that had gathered around the hotel, causing traffic jams as motorists tried to get away from the scene.
It was a very windy evening, and the fire raged through the middle and upper floors of the 63-story building.
The government media office said on Twitter that the fire had “originated from outside” the 20th floor of the hotel and that internal fire systems had prevented it from spreading inside. The media office gave no further explanation as to how the fire had started.
The hotel, which opened in 2008, includes traditional guest rooms and luxury apartments that are used as long-term residences or investment properties. It is part of an opulent complex that includes a shopping mall with a giant aquarium, a theme park and a 22-screen cinema, and a fountain in a lake that shoots water as high as 500 feet. The hotel is steps from the Burj Khalifa, which is generally recognized as the world’s tallest building.
Zeina Mandour, 35, a Lebanese resident of Dubai who works in sales, was visiting relatives in one of the building’s apartments on the 39th floor. Just before 10 p.m., they heard an explosion, she said, and she saw black smoke and flames when she looked out the window. She could feel the heat of the flames from inside the apartment, she said in a telephone interview.
She and her family dashed out of the apartment and began knocking on neighbors’ doors and shouting for everyone inside to evacuate, Mandour said. They joined other people in the stairwell trying to leave as the building’s fire alarm sounded.
“We’re tired and stressed,” Mandour said from the Dubai Mall, where her family and other guests of the hotel had sought safety.
Another woman who was in the mall at the time, Tina Karakalla, said people ran from outdoor cafes near the burning hotel and shouted “fire.” The police guided the evacuees to safety, while ambulances gathered to assist.
Dubai, with a population of 2 million, is the largest city of the United Arab Emirates and has worked to build itself as a major tourist and investment destination. In 2009, Dubai received a financial bailout from Abu Dhabi, another of the emirates. The Burj Khalifa, which opened in 2010, was originally named the Burj Dubai but was renamed after the bailout in honor of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the emir of Abu Dhabi.