Dubai police say New Year's skyscraper fire caused by electrical short

The damage at the interior of Address Downtown Dubai hotel and residential block.
The damage at the interior of Address Downtown Dubai hotel and residential block.PHOTO: REUTERS

DUBAI (Reuters) - The fire which engulfed one of Dubai's most prominent skyscrapers ahead of New Year fireworks was caused by an electrical short, Dubai's police chief said on Wednesday (Jan 20).

In a presentation to media, police officials said there had been no trace of any flammable liquids such as petrol at the site of the blaze at the 63-storey hotel and residential block, close to the world's tallest building.

"The direct cause was an electrical short-circuit," police commander Khamis Mattar Al-Mazeina told reporters.

He declined to say whether the cladding - layers fixed to the outside of buildings for decoration, insulation or protection - had affected the development of the fire, and directed queries about building materials to the Dubai Civil Defence authority.

The building was quickly evacuated with only minor injuries reported, and the authorities went ahead with a New Year's fireworks display at the 160-storey Burj Khalifa tower a few hundred metres away.

Flames shot skywards from one side of the luxury Address Downtown Dubai, owned by developer Emaar Properties, which stands across a plaza from the Burj Khalifa tower where people had gathered for the fireworks show.

Television pictures showed pieces of blazing debris raining down from The Address as evacuated occupants hurried away from the building, some running.

Emaar said on Jan 3 the fire should have "no material impact" on the company because the building and risk of fire were covered by its insurance.

The company also said it had hired a local contractor, Dubai-based DUTCO Group, as a contractor to clear and restore the building.

Experts have asked whether cladding layers fixed to the outside of buildings for decoration, insulation or protection may in some cases make them more vulnerable to fire.