Dubai fireworks show pushes thru despite fire at luxury tower
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A massive fireworks display kicked off for New Year’s at the world’s tallest tower in Dubai, while plumes of smoke billowed in the air from a fire raging at a nearby luxury tower.
Tens of thousands of people whistled and cheered at the show taking place at the Burj Khalifa skyscraper as teams of firefighters were working to put out the blaze that had engulfed a 63-story luxury hotel and residential building. Just minutes before the fireworks began, large explosions could be heard from inside the burning building, which was cloaked in thick black smoke. It was not clear what caused the blasts.
At least 14 people were slightly injured and one person suffered a heart attack from the smoke and over-crowding during evacuation late Thursday, according to the Dubai Media Office. The statement said another person was moderately injured, without elaborating further. No children were among those injured, it said.
Around 1 million people had been expected to gather around the Burj Khalifa to watch the fireworks. Dubai’s economy depends heavily on tourism, and New Year’s is one of the busiest seasons, 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.
Organizers had installed 400,000 LED lights on the Burj Khalifa and used some 1.6 tons of fireworks for the seven-minute extravaganza. Two years ago on New Year’s, Dubai broke the world record for the largest fireworks display.
The fire engulfed the Address Downtown, one of the most upscale hotels and residences in Dubai, which was likely to have been packed with people because of its clear view of the 828-meter (905-yard) tall Burj Khalifa.
The hotel towers over the Souq Al Bahar, a popular shopping area with walkways that connect to the Burj Khalifa and the Middle East’s largest mall, the Dubai Mall.
It was not immediately clear what caused the fire, which ran up the 63-story building. The Address is a 991 foot-tall (302-meter) skyscraper that has 626 luxury apartments and 196 hotel rooms, according to Skyscraper Center, which tracks such buildings.