DUBAI // Residents of apartments adjacent to The Address Downtown Dubai hotel described how they fled their homes as smouldering glass and aluminium cladding panels crashed onto their properties.
As residents prepared to watch the New Year’s Eve fireworks from their garden, they told of how the fire engulfed the hotel in minutes, prompting fire safety officials to order an evacuation of nearby buildings.
“My wife was bathing our baby when I heard loud sounds. When I went out my garden was on fire,” said Jumpei Onozuka, a Japanese national who works in an investment company.
“I tried to put out the fire with my fire extinguisher. Only then did I look up and see the hotel was burning up. The flames climbed up rapidly. We are still shaken up. It was very scary, my memory is fragmented.”
Like other residents of Al Tajer residences, that overlooks the hotel, Mr Onozuka grabbed passports, documents, a few clothes and fled with his family. They stayed overnight with friends who live nearby and will move into accommodation being provided for residents.
Property consultant J C saw a small fire in the hotel when returning home after taking his two dogs for a walk.
“I didn’t think too much of it because it was small, but in five minutes it was as if the whole building was on fire,” he said, while waiting on the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Boulevard yesterday for a relative to pick him up.
“Then I heard people screaming, running and I could hear glass shattering. There were bits of cladding and glass in the garden.”
Sri Lankan housemaid Chandi remembered the panic in her son’s voice when she called to check if he was safe.
“He tried to make me calm and kept saying ‘I’m OK, Mummy’, but I was frightened,” she said. Along with relatives, she stood on the boulevard on Friday watching firefighters battle the blaze.
“We are here because our children work here. Their lives are saved so we are thankful and now we are worried about their jobs.”
A spokeswoman for The Address said that “all guests and employees were safely evacuated”.
Tourists who witnessed the blaze, said they initially fearful for the safety of those inside the hotel.
“There is sadness and concern for anyone inside the hotel because the flames were so intense and shot up from the base, it was overwhelming,” said Ray Oxby, an English tourist visiting his daughter.
“It was so rapid and dramatic because the fire ripped into the left side of the building. There was panic because people were worried about the structural integrity of the building with the amount of debris spilling off and fear that the fire would spread.”
Others had a lucky escape.
“We had been planning to take a room at The Address to watch the fireworks and thank Allah that we did not,” said H L, a Jordanian bank employee.
“It is such as sad way to start the new year.”
Like other residents, she praised the work of Civil Defence workers who distributed water and sandwiches. Some residents who fled before they could pack essentials were also provided with money to buy clothes and food.
“They kept everyone calm. People were scared but the Civil Defence kept control and told people not to worry,” she said.