The Address Hotel in Dubai, designed by architecture firm Atkins, turned into an inferno after fire ripped through the 302m skyscraper in seconds, sending tourists who had gathered for the city’s New Year celebrations fleeing in panic.
But according to the latest reports no one was killed in the blaze at the tower, which contains the Address Downtown Dubai and hundreds of luxury apartments. Current reports say 16 people were injured – one person suffering a heart attack.
The fire began as an estimated million people prepared to ring in the New Year and, even as the tower continued to burn, the fireworks display went ahead as planned at midnight.
The 63-storey building had been packed with people waiting for the firework show to begin as it offered one of the best views in the city of the display, which centred on the nearby Burj Khalifa.
Moments after the fire broke out, much of the building was engulfed in flames fanned by strong winds and burning debris poured down on to the streets below. The cause is still not known.
Dubai police said the blaze started on the 20th floor of the building, which is also a residential address. Footage taken by witnesses and uploaded to the internet shows huge flames rapidly climbing the hotel’s exterior from what appeared to be a balcony.
The flames appeared to have soared to near the top of the building within seconds.
Burning debris rained down from the building as fire engines raced to the scene.
Witnesses said hotel staff and fire crews had evacuated all guests. The evacuation was aided by the fact that the blaze did not immediately penetrate the building, its enormous flames instead feeding off the outside of the 63-storey structure.
Survivors of the blaze said they were ushered out via fire stairs.
“We were immediately shown where to leave,” said David Moran, a Dubai-based businessman who was dining in the hotel. “They were very good. They knew their jobs and people escaped without panic.”
Angus Villar, who was on the 15th floor when the fire began, said: “We ran out the room and got to the fire escape before the fire alarm had actually gone off, at which point there were already people running through the corridors.
“I ended up having to put somebody on my back who was in a wheelchair and carry them down to the ground floor. It was absolute pandemonium.”
Four squads of firefighters worked to control the fire, which started on the 20th floor of the hotel, the Government of Dubai Media Office tweeted.
Journalist Jaqueline Hurtado was at a restaurant in the area when she heard an explosion, “like a loud pop.” She said she thought the fireworks display may have started early.
“Then suddenly you saw people screaming and running,” she said.
Kenneth Flynn described his escape from the burning building: “We had some dinner at about nine o’clock. We ordered one drink and my partner noticed something falling from the building.
“She said ‘What’s that?’ and I said ‘I don’t know but I’ll have a look’. By the time I walked out the whole building was just ablaze. It was unbelievable. By the time I came back in I had lost her because the whole place was in panic. People were crushing each other trying to get out and get down the stairwell.
“I’ve never experienced anything like it, it was surreal.
“The heat was so intense outside it was unbelievable. Then it was panic stations. People started to panic, crushing each other trying to get downstairs and jumping over railings.
“I couldn’t believe how fast it actually happened. And you know what? There was actually no fire alarm. I could hear no fire alarm going off.
“The problem was with human error and panic. Everyone was beginning to panic. I am not going to say I didn’t panic myself. I was absolutely terrified to be honest. The heat was unbelievable. Especially when I lost her [his partner] for a few minutes but I managed to find her and we got out.”
Other eyewitnesses said they were furious at people taking selfies in front of the burning building.
“They seemed to think they were starring in some sort of disaster movie,” said Tony Joseph, a holiday-maker from Qatar.