Fire crews finish the job in Dubai hotel blaze

Firefighters worked to contain small pockets of fire at The Address Downtown Dubai hotel yesterday after Thursday night’s blaze engulfed the 63-storey building.

A small fire breaks out around 7pm as the firefighting efforts continue on New Year’s Day. Victor Besa for The National.
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DUBAI // Firefighters worked to contain small pockets of fire at The Address Downtown Dubai hotel on Friday after Thursday night’s blaze engulfed the 63-storey building.

Civil Defence workers perched on a ladder and trained jets of water at the flames, and teams inside the hotel checked sections of the structure where 16 people were injured on New Year’s Eve.

Plumes of dark smoke poured from the building on Friday morning while flames were seen in the lower part of the building in the afternoon.

On his Twitter account, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, praised the emirate’s fire teams in fighting the New Year blaze: “Proud of our police, civil defence and ambulance services. You demonstrated best in world capabilities last night.”

Royalty also played its part in the operation itself.

State news agency Wam reported that Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, Minister of Interior and Deputy Prime Minister, helped supervise the operation to put out the blaze.

Sheikh Mansoor bin Mohammed, son of the Ruler of Dubai, was photographed at the scene in a firefighter’s uniform.

Sheikh Mansoor later posted a photo on Instagram of the fire crews, accompanied by a message thanking civil defence and police for their work in controlling the fire.

Officials said on Friday they were trying to ascertain the cause of the fire.

The area surrounding the Dubai Fountain was blocked off and crowds of shoppers inside Dubai Mall were prevented by security guards from entering the outdoor zones.

“Sometimes it happens that the fire continues to burn because of air pockets,” said a civil defence official, who explained the sporadic fires on Friday.

Earlier on Friday, flames ripped through the glass facade along the building’s rim on the eighth floor and large chunks of debris fell as a fire burned on the 20th floor, where the blaze reportedly began at 9.30pm on Thursday.

More than 40 vehicles from Dubai Police and the civil defence were at the scene and a one-kilometre stretch of the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Boulevard was blocked to traffic.

The Dubai Civil Defence team was joined by a German squad, which specialise in fighting tower blazes, from Abu Dhabi.

Given the intensity of the fire and the speed with which it spread, the building was evacuated with calm efficiency.

The broad efforts were coordinated by the Crisis and Disaster Management Committee, headed by Maj Gen Khamis Al Muzainah, commander general of Dubai Police.

He told state news agency Wam that 15 people suffered “light to moderate injuries” and there was a heart attack.

“All injured were moved to hospital and discharged later after receiving medical care, except for the cases of a pregnant woman and an elderly man, whose conditions are stable,” he said.

Dennis Mallari, a Filipino photographer, was trapped on the 48th floor while on assignment to film the New Year’s Eve fireworks at the Burj Khalifa, which went ahead as scheduled.

“More than the heat from the flames, it was the smoke that was difficult to bear because when the wind changed direction, smoke covered the balcony I was on.”

He unravelled and lowered a cable used by window cleaners and took refuge from the fumes on the platform hanging outside the hotel for more than an hour. Phone calls to friends and family alerted civil defence to his location and they helped in his rescue.

“I lost control and broke down at first but then thought of my wife and daughter. I called friends and civil defence so I would be found because it was difficult to see through the smoke and fire,” said Mr Mallari.

Many onlookers crowded the boulevard to take photographs of the blackened shell of the hotel.

“No one was sure how much the fire would spread,” said Janice Bernard, who lives in an apartment in the Zafraan quarter opposite the hotel.

“It was sad to think of people inside because the flames moved so rapidly, the fire was intense.”

Gas lines to nearby restaurants were shut down as a precaution. Some restaurants across the road from the hotel were shut at breakfast but opened from lunch onwards.

“All our guests were evacuated last night for safety reasons,” said Thaer, the owner of an Arabic restaurant opposite the hotel.

“Restaurants on the boulevard were cleared and people were evacuated quickly. It was terrible that this happened.”

Hotel guests and employees were safely evacuated, said a spokeswoman of The Address.

“An investigation is ongoing and details will be provided once they are ascertained.”

The hotel said it had set up a hotline for guests affected by the fire and was working to provide them alternative accommodation across the city.