Firefighters battled a blaze that engulfed a luxury hotel in Dubai Thursday night while a spectacular New Year’s fireworks display lit up the night sky nearby.
Orange tentacles of flames engulfed a large section of the high-end Address hotel soon after the fire started around 9:30 p.m. (12:30 p.m. ET). Witnesses said they heard explosions as the fire raged.
Hours later, dark plumes of smoke billowed from the building as the fire still appeared to be searing several stories.
Bruce Szczepanski, who watched from the balcony of a nearby hotel, said he could still hear parts of the building crashing to the ground more than nine hours after the blaze began.
“There are huge flames, and you can hear the structure falling and the thuds,” he said.
A source told the mediathe fire broke out in a residence on the building’s 20th floor when curtains caught on fire.
Jaqueline Hurtado, a Español correspondent, was at a restaurant in the area when she heard an explosion, “like a loud pop.” She thought the fireworks display may have started early.
“Then suddenly you saw people screaming and running,” she said.
The nearby hotel, they realized, was on fire. Soon authorities evacuated them from the area.
“The fire was just going so fast,” she said. “It just started burning real quick.”
At least 16 people were injured, the Dubai government’s media office said Thursday night on Twitter.
New Year’s fireworks show goes on
But the highly anticipated New Year’s Eve festivities in the United Arab Emirates’ most populous city — including what was billed as one of the world’s largest fireworks displays — went ahead as planned. Cheering crowds of onlookers watched as bursts of color filled the sky.
Just a few blocks away, the scene was dramatically different.