Skyscraper Fire in Dubai Smolders Into Friday

DUBAI (AP) -
A fire burns on the Address Downtown skyscraper in Dubai, United Arab Emirates on Friday, Jan. 1, 2016. The blaze began Thursday night before Dubai's annual New Year's Eve fireworks show at the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building which sits nearby. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
A fire burns on the Address Downtown skyscraper in Dubai on Friday. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

A towering inferno that engulfed a 63-story luxury hotel in Dubai on Thursday burned on as firefighters worked to douse its embers on Friday.

The blaze at the Address Downtown, one of the most upscale hotels and residences in Dubai, comes after a series of fires striking the towers that provide this megacity its futuristic skyline.

While Dubai officials said only 14 people suffered minor injuries in evacuating the building late Thursday night, the fire raised new questions about building safety for those living in the United Arab Emirates.

The fire started around 9:30 p.m. Thursday, racing up the sides of the building. Nevertheless, authorities went ahead and conducted a midnight fireworks show at the nearby Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building.

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 for business, but served limited menus as civil defense officials cut natural gas to the area.

By the afternoon, the fire had largely died down, but its embers still sent smoke into the air.

The Dubai government’s media office wrote on its official Twitter account that the fire appeared to have started on a 20th floor terrace, though witnesses who saw the blaze start said they believed it began on the building’s ground floor.

Around a million people had been expected to gather around the Burj Khalifa skyscraper to watch the fireworks. Dubai’s economy depends heavily on tourism, and Dec. 31 is one of its busiest days, drawing people from around the world to watch the fireworks that the emirate puts on at the world’s tallest tower, as well as the sail-shaped Burj Al Arab and over a man-made palm-shaped island.

No one has yet offered a cause for the fire. It wasn’t clear if the Address Downtown was to have been involved in the fireworks display.

Dubai-based Emaar Properties, which built the Burj Khalifa, the Address Downtown and other surrounding developments, declined to immediately answer questions about the fire posed by The Associated Press. It did issue 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.

Lt. Gen. 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.

But challenges remain as Dubai has faced a series of recent tower fires. In February, a similar blaze spread along the external cladding of Dubai’s 86-story Torch tower, one of the world’s tallest residential buildings. In October, another fire broke out in a high-rise residential tower in the Emirati city of Sharjah.