DUBAI // A fire broke out in the early hours of Saturday in the Torch tower in Dubai, one of the tallest residential buildings in the world, sending bright yellow flames several storeys high.
Hundreds were moved to safety from the 336-metre skyscraper in the Marina district of the city. Dubai Civil Defence said the fire started in an apartment on the 51st floor and spread up to the 79th floor. The fire is thought to have started at about 2am and was spread quickly by strong winds. Debris from the fire cluttered nearby streets after the blaze appeared to have been extinguished.
Civil Defence said there were no serious injuries but seven people suffered from mild smoke inhalation, and were treated on the scene. They said the situation was now under control and fire experts at Dubai Police would determine the cause of the blaze.
Police blocked off areas around the skyscraper, which still had power. Lights were on in many of the apartments inside and fire engines and police vehicles were on the scene.
Residents of at least one neighbouring tower were told to leave as a precaution because of strong winds, but they were later allowed back inside.
Two residents of the Torch said they were told the fire had started around the 52nd floor. Flaming material falling from the initial fire then set a lower part of the building ablaze, they said.
One of the residents, Steve Short, 53, from Liverpool, England, praised the work of firefighters who arrived quickly. He said fire alarms alerted residents to the blaze and building management sent workers knocking on doors to ensure residents got out.
Resident R J Morlock, 33, from Houston, Texas, shot video on his phone that showed bright yellow flames reaching what appeared to be several storeys on two separate parts of the building. He said residents were nervous coming out, but fire crews were able to bring the situation under control. “I was really surprised they got it under control pretty quickly,” he said. “It looked like it was going to go up.” One woman, who did not give her name, stood on the street crying, told Reuters she had rushed back fearing for her belongings after a friend contacted her about the fire. The lower floors where she lived were not affected.
Residents of upper floors that were most affected were told it would be days before they could return.
As daylight broke, residents waiting across the street to be allowed back home were able to see the extent of the blaze: external cladding on the corner of more than two dozen storeys from about the 50th floor to the top were mangled and charred black. Clean-up crews dressed in orange uniforms swept up pieces of shattered glass and other debris covering the street outside the building.
Maj Gen Rashid Al Matroushi, director of Dubai Civil Defence, said: “The incident proved Dubai Civil Defence’s ability to control the fire and stop it from spreading to the tower’s other wings and to nearby buildings by following strict protocols to break in quickly and reach the source of the fire on the 51st floor.”
He said about 100 officers from nine civil defence stations took part in putting out the blaze. Cooperation with Dubai Police and other government entities was imperative in controlling the situation in the shortest time possible.
Dubai Police chief Maj Gen Khamis Al Muzeina said that there there was no criminal motivation behind the fire. The scene was being examined by forensic scientists from the General Department of Criminal Evidence and Criminology at Dubai Police to compile a technical report to determine the cause of the fire.
The RTA tweeted at about 7am: “Dubai Tram is non-operational in majority of the stations due to a fire that broke out in a building at Dubai Marina.
“Large amount of debris has fallen from the fire on the tram track nearby halting the normal operation.
“The Tram will be operating between three stations only: Al Sufouh, Knowledge Village and Palm Jumeirah.”
Aditional reporting by the Associated Press