Dubai lit by spectacular New Year fireworks despite fire near iconic Burj Khalifa tower

Fireworks exploding over Dubai's Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, during the New Year celebrations on Jan 1, 2016.
Fireworks exploding over Dubai's Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, during the New Year celebrations on Jan 1, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS
Fireworks explode over Dubai's Burj Khalifa during New Year celebrations.
Fireworks explode over Dubai's Burj Khalifa during New Year celebrations.PHOTO: REUTERS

DUBAI (AFP) - A spectacular fireworks display lit up the sky above Dubai Thursday, centred on the iconic Burj Khalifa tower close to where a huge fire in a luxury hotel injured 16 people hours earlier.

The display was most elaborate at the 828-metre Burj, where blasts of colour and light exploded as the clock struck midnight.

Lasers flashed through the skies over the chic district surrounding the tower, close to where flames were still billowing from the 63-storey Address Downtown hotel.

Burj Khalifa was lit up with the flags of the six Gulf Cooperation Council states, of which the United Arab Emirates is a member, witnesses said.

"From @BurjKhalifa to the world: Happy New Year 2016," tweeted the Dubai government media office.

Other fireworks were seen at the sail-shaped landmark Burj al-Arab hotel, in addition to various spots across the city as spectators cheered on.

 
 

The Address Downtown hotel, which is a few blocks from the iconic Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest tower, was engulfed in flames across several floors as sirens wailed and helicopters hovered overhead, witnesses said.

Dubai's police chief said all the hotel's residents had been evacuated from the scene of the blaze, which had still not been extinguished some three hours after it broke out.

"All the residents are out," General Khamis Matar al-Mzeima said.

"Until the fire is put out, we will not have information on what caused it," he added.

"At least 14 people have been slightly injured, along with one medium injury, and a heart attack case registered due to people pushing" amid the smoke, the media office tweeted.

Witness Raphael Slama told AFP the fire started at around 9:30 pm (1.30 am) Singapore time ) and rapidly spread upwards across dozens of floors.

A photographer at the scene said "it began in the middle of the hotel, then went down like lightning before shooting up again".

"People in the vicinity began to run in panic to get away from the area," he added.

The government tweeted that the fire erupted on the 20th floor and affected only the outer facade of the building.

"Four firefighting teams have been deployed" to fight the blaze, it added.

Authorities said earlier Thursday that they had deployed thousands of security personnel to ensure visitors and residents could enjoy the New Year's festivities safely.

"New Year's celebrations will proceed according to schedule," Mona al-Marri said on her Twitter account after the blaze.

A spectacular fireworks display kicked off as planned at midnight, beginning at the 828 metre high Burj Khalifa before spread across the skies of the cash-flush city above thousands of cheering spectators.

Lasers flashed through the skies over the chic district surrounding the tower, which was lit up with the flags of the six Gulf Cooperation Council states, of which the United Arab Emirates is a member.

"From @BurjKhalifa to the world: Happy New Year 2016," said the Dubai government media office on Twitter.

Dubai's futuristic cityscape is famous for its hugely varied skyscrapers.

In November, a massive blaze engulfed three residential blocs in central Dubai and led to services on a metro line being suspended, although no one was hurt.

In February, a huge fire gutted one of the emirate's tallest buildings, destroying luxury flats in the Torch tower and triggering an evacuation of nearby blocs in the Dubai Marina neighbourhood - a district popular among expatriates.

And in 2012, a huge blaze gutted the 34-storey Tamweel Tower in the nearby Jumeirah Lake Towers district. It was later revealed to have been caused by a cigarette butt thrown into a bin.