Dubai Investigates Luxury Hotel Skyscraper Fire Near Burj Khalifa

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP/NBC)-- An investigation began Friday into the cause of a huge fire that ripped through a 63-floor luxury hotel in Dubai on New Year's Eve, the latest of several blazes to hit the city's skyscrapers in recent years.

Fourteen people were injured in the fire at the Address Downtown Dubai hotel — just 600 yards from the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa.

Officials said the fire did not spread inside the building, but the scare raises questions about the safety in the emirate's famously tall buildings.

Witnesses described seeing flaming debris wafting down from upper floors as occupants left, some running, Reuters reported.

The blaze started at the 20th floor at around 9:30 p.m. local time (12:30 p.m. ET) and quickly spread up the side of the building.

The Associated Press reported firefighters were largely watching the fire from the ground some 12 hours after it broke out, at one point unable to use a water hose on a ladder truck.

They later regained water pressure and began spraying the building, according to the AP.

Margaret Besheer, an American vacationing in Dubai, was dining on a nearby terrace when she looked up to see a fire on a lower balcony. "It just spread very rapidly, I'd say within six or seven minutes, the entire side of the building was just engulfed in flames," she told MSNBC.

The incident did not affect the city's fireworks display at the 2,700-foot Burj Khalifa, which is almost 1,000 feet taller than New York's One World Trade Center.

Dubai is heavily reliant on tourism and officials were keen to downplay the blaze and draw attention to the fireworks display, which had been expected to draw a crowd of around one million.

"There are no injuries, thank God ... of course, it will not affect the celebration," Maj. Gen. Rashed al-Matrushi, general director of the Dubai Civil Defence, told a live broadcast of the planned celebrations.

The fire came just 10 months after a fire at another Dubai skyscraper, a 79-story apartment tower named The Torch, and in October there was a fire at a high-rise residential tower in the adjacent emirate of Sharjah.

In November 2012, the city's Tamweel Tower was engulfed in a massive fire started by a cigarette thrown into a pile of trash outside the building.

Some believe that the spate of high-rise fires is due to the use of flammable material in exterior cladding.
Water drips from the ceiling of a charred room at the Address Downtown Dubai hotel on Jan. 1, 2016. Government of Duba Media Office

The city passed legislation in 2012 and 2013 that imposed tougher regulations and made safety features such as exterior sprinklers mandatory in new builds, according to an article in UAE-based newspaper The National.

However experts believe that the majority of the city's 250 high-rise buildings have been constructed using a combustible "thermo-plastic core," the newspaper reported in March

A fire engulfs The Address Hotel in Dubai on Dec. 31. (Photo: Ahmed Jadallah / Reuters)
A fire burns on the Address Downtown skyscraper in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Friday. (Photo: Sunday Alamba / AP)
Water drips from the ceiling of a charred room at the Address Downtown Dubai hotel on Jan. 1, 2016. (Photo: Government of Dubai Media Office)

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