DUBAI • Firefighters yesterday appeared to have mostly extinguished a blaze that suddenly engulfed one of Dubai's most prominent skyscrapers on New Year's Eve, said witnesses.
Plumes of white smoke still emanated from the charred, 63-storey Address Downtown Dubai hotel and residential block at daybreak, but civil defence crews had mostly extinguished the flames which erupted at around 9.30pm.
Dubai police said on Thursday that the building was evacuated and only 14 people were slightly injured, but a medic at the scene said more than 60 were treated for mild smoke inhalation and problems caused by crowding as they fled. Witnesses described seeing flaming debris falling from the building as occupants left, some running.
The New Year firework display, one of Dubai's most celebrated annual rites, went on as planned at the nearby Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building. But most of the thousands of spectators were evacuated before it began.
Dubai, among the most open and peaceful cities in the war-battered Middle East, prides itself as a tourist and business hub. But the metropolis, one of seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates, may face questions about the safety of its rapidly constructed cityscape, especially after another famous high-rise caught fire last year. Security officials said the conflagration began on the outside of the structure at the 20th floor, and the deputy chief of police said the investigation into its cause was under way.
In the Philippines, a lit firecracker started a slum inferno which quickly spread, said fire bureau spokesman Renato Marcial. The blaze destroyed a maze of wood and cardboard huts in a Manila shantytown in the early hours of New Year's Day, leaving 3,000 people homeless, said city disaster officer Johnny Yu.
Panicked residents fled their burning homes while men, many of whom were drunk from merrymaking, tried to put out the fire with water. A 65-year-old woman died of a heart attack as she watched her house burn, Mr Yu said.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE