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Authorities Trying to Determine Cause of Dubai Hotel Fire

  • VOA News

Flames whip through the Address Downtown Dubai hotel in the United Arab Emirates, Dec. 31, 2015.

Flames whip through the Address Downtown Dubai hotel in the United Arab Emirates, Dec. 31, 2015.

Authorities are trying to determine what caused an inferno at a high-rise luxury hotel in downtown Dubai that burned during the city's New Year's Eve fireworks extravaganza.

The fire at The Address Hotel provided dramatic scenes as hundreds of thousands of people watching the fireworks display looked on. The hotel is located near the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world.

The Address Hotel was evacuated during the blaze, but 14 people suffered minor injuries, and one person experienced a heart attack.

On Friday, heavy, white smoke continued to billow from the 63-story hotel, one of the most upscale hotels and residences in Dubai.

VOA's Margaret Besheer, who is spending the holiday in Dubai, said many fire trucks and water tanks were still in front of the hotel Friday. She said she saw only smoke coming out of the building as of 5 p.m. local time, but two hours later saw a fire burning on one balcony at the hotel.

A 'miracle'

Besheer said it is a "miracle" no one died in the inferno.

"Authorities here are saying that internal parts of the hotel were not gutted by the fire," she said. "I think it had a very advanced sprinkler system that kept the fire from spreading internally. But the facade is really badly damaged on the north side of the building. I was looking at the building today, and there’s still smoke billowing off the building and there’s a smell in the air like a lighter fluid."

Besheer also said it was a "bit surreal" watching a fireworks show on one side of the street and a raging inferno on the other.

"From a safety point of view, I was a bit surprised that they’d go ahead with [the fireworks]," she said. "But it’s been in the planning here for six months. They had a French company do the pyrotechnics, an American company was also involved. It was a very intensive effort, and I guess they didn’t want to disappoint the crowds, and they decided it would be safe to go ahead and do it. It was a beautiful show. We did end up seeing it from the street. We were evacuated from the restaurant where we had gone. But the crowd seemed delighted that they went ahead. There were thousands of people on the street. People didn’t go running in a panic. People stayed."

Officials said the fire erupted on the 20th floor of The Address hotel, perhaps outside on a terrace, causing the flames to quickly climb up the length of the structure.

When the fire broke out at the downtown-area hotel, tens of thousands of people were gathered nearby to watch the annual New Year's Eve fireworks show.

The hotel stands across from the world's tallest skyscraper, the 800-meter-tall Burj Khalifa, which was the initial focal point of a spectacular 25-minute fireworks display, which could be seen across Dubai, to usher in 2016.

The hotel, a favorite for international celebrities and wealthy travelers, was reportedly fully booked with people who had come to see the fireworks. Authorities said that they were able to evacuate everyone safely.

United Arab Emirates authorities said earlier Thursday that thousands of security personnel were on duty as a safeguard during the festivities.

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