DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, Aug 5, (AP): Police in Dubai reopened the streets around one of the world’s tallest residential skyscrapers after firefighters put out a blaze that erupted early Friday in the high-rise, forcing residents to evacuate in the middle of the night and sending chunks of debris plummeting below. No major injuries had been reported in the tower, located in an upscale waterfront district heavily populated by expatriates from around the world.
A few people were treated for smoke inhalation, according to Dubai’s Gulf News website. Several residents said the fire broke out just after 1 am at the 87-story Torch Tower — a more than 1,100-foot-tall (335 meters) residential building in Dubai’s Marina district. The tower has 676 apartments — 38 of which were burnt and destroyed by the fire, according to the official Dubai media office. Sixty-four floors of the facade of the building were also burnt, they said. The same building had also caught fire just two-and-a-half years earlier.
The cause of the fire on was not immediately known but in the past, such infernos in Dubai have been linked to highly flammable building cladding — as was the devastating June tower fire in London that killed at least 80 people. “You never think it’s going to happen to you,” said Alireza Aletomeh, a resident of the tower. “I had cash in there, furniture, paintings. … Many things that are very valuable to me.” Aletomeh, a sales manager, said he moved to the Torch Tower just three months ago, snagging an apartment on the 54th floor of the luxury tower.
He said he was coming home after midnight when building security guards told him to remain in the street because a fire had erupted. He said his roommate grabbed their passports and that it took him more than two hours to come down the stairway because of the rush of people trying to get out at the same time. At least one woman passed out in the stairway, Aletomeh said. Nearly the entire length of the building on one side became engulfed in flames at one point during the blaze as residents looked on from below, many in tears.
The firefighters battled the blaze for more than two hours. Officials say 84 floors of the building are residential and three are for services. Dubai’s Civil Defense announced at about 3:30 am that firefighters had brought the blaze under control and said cooling operations were underway. Authorities shared video of the building from the outside later on Friday, showing the entire length of the tower charred on one side. By midday Friday, a few police cars could be seen in the area, but the main streets around it were open to traffic and had been wiped clean of debris, some of which had fallen on cars parked below.
The skyscraper, however, remained closed to residents. Officials said they were providing shelter at three nearby hotels for residents. By nightfall, residents still had not been told when they would be allowed to return to check on their apartments. The Torch Tower previously caught fire in February 2015; there were also no casualties reported in that blaze. In both incidents, fire alarms alerted residents and building staff knocked on doors to ensure evacuation. Kingfield Owner Association Management Services, which manages the tower, did not provide any details about the cause of the blaze in a brief response to questions.